What You Can Do About Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
When you are pregnant, your body looks and feels different in a number of ways. Something you might notice is that your legs may feel more sore than usual, with a feeling of pressure in some places. You may also feel a pressure or dull ache in your vulva or pelvic area. What’s going on? Varicose veins. These are a common complaint during pregnancy, and you may worry that they will never go away. There are a number of steps that you can take, first to make sure that these veins do not get worse, and second to treat them before they become a health issue rather than a cosmetic one.
What Causes Varicose Veins and What Do They Look Like?
Varicose veins are caused when the small valves in the veins stop functioning efficiently, and blood is not pumped properly back towards the heart. Instead, the blood pools in the area around the dysfunctional valve, and causes the vein to swell. This results in pain, and the vein becomes visible and bulges up against the skin. They usually look like a blue or greenish vein, possibly with some bruising or a red rash around the swollen vein.
If you think you have varicose veins on your vulva, they are caused by the same mechanism. They simply look like part of the vulva is very swollen, and it may feel painful or like a pressure in the skin.
In pregnancy, these veins are more likely to occur. There are multiple reasons behind this. First, when you are pregnant, the blood flow in your body is much greater in general. This is to provide sufficient blood to the placenta and expanding uterus, to make sure that the baby gets all of the nutrients it needs. This additional blood flow can put strain on the veins and make them more likely to fail.
Second, as the uterus and baby grow bigger, this puts additional pressure on your pelvis and lower limbs. This causes the veins to work overtime, just trying to pump your blood back up against this extra weight and pressure. During pregnancy, roughly a third of women will develop varicose veins at some point, and it’s common for these veins to become worse as the pregnancy progresses.
What Treatments Are Available?
There are a number of different approaches you can take. First, you should ensure that you take steps to prevent any further varicose veins from appearing.
One of the main things that you can do to prevent varicose veins is ensure that you get regular exercise, and do not gain too much weight during pregnancy. If you are very sedentary and gain a lot of weight while pregnant, this can put additional strain on the valves and cause more varicose veins to appear.
Second, ensure that you spend some time with your legs elevated, to help the blood flow back towards your heart. When you are standing up a lot, your valves are having to work against gravity. Using gravity to help the blood flow back upwards towards your heart can help to give the valves a break. For preventing varicose veins in your vulva and pelvic area, make sure to take a regular stool softener and avoid constipation. Straining on the toilet pushes extra blood into the pelvic area, which can exacerbate the issue.
If you have already developed varicose veins, the next step is to seek treatment to make sure that they do not get worse.
There are various treatments that you can get for varicose veins. Treatment options are continually developing, and there are now many minimally-invasive procedures that can be performed. There are two main approaches to these types of procedures: either heat-based techniques that seal the vein, or non-heat-based techniques. In all cases, the leaky vein is sealed off to stop blood pooling around the vein. Heat-based treatments such as EVLT (endovenous laser treatment) and Radiofrequency ablation (VNUS Closure) are both long-established and clinically proven treatments for varicose veins, with good success rates. The main downside is that they require an anaesthetic to be injected into the area around the vein before treatment.
Non-heat-based techniques include Foam Sclerotherapy, Clarivein and glue treatments, all of which are effective in treating varicose veins. The problem with these approaches are that they are not as well-proven, and may have some side effects.
In any case, varicose veins during pregnancy are a normal and common experience that many women go through. You can take practical steps to prevent these veins from developing in the first place, and there are also numerous treatment options available if a varicose vein develops and causes you pain.