• Dr Peter Chew

Varicose veins in pregnancy

I have varicose veins during pregnancy. Are there ways to minimize these unsightly veins? Will they go away after delivery?

Varicose veins are swollen veins under the skin. During pregnancy. they are usually found in the legs but occasionally, they may extend around the vulva and vagina. Usually, they do not have any symptoms other than the blue and purple bulging veins in the legs. Sometimes, they may cause itchiness and make the legs feel tired and uncomfortable. Varicose veins around the vulva may cause swelling and may bleed profusely when injured accidentally.

Factors which contribute to the development of varicose veins in pregnancy include:

· The blood volume of the mother increases, while the blood flows from the legs to the heart decreases. This results in the increase in pressure on the leg veins which become swollen.

· The increased levels of progesterone, the pregnancy hormone may dilate or open the veins.

· The growing womb is pressing on the pelvic veins. The back flow of the blood further contribute the formation of varicose veins.

Fortunately, varicose veins tend to improve after delivery. This usually happens within three to four months though sometimes it may take longer. However, they are less likely to disappear if the patients had varicose veins before pregnancy, have had multiple pregnancies, have a family history of varicose veins, are overweight, or tend to stand for prolong periods.

To minimize the occurrence of varicose veins, the following steps may help

· Exercise regularly. Try to do brisk walking. This will help the circulation,

· Wear maternity support hose or compression stockings. These are tight at the ankle and get looser as they go up the legs. They help prevent swelling and may keep the varicose veins from getting worse,

· Raise the feet and legs whenever possible. Keep the feet elevated on a pillow when lying down,

· Sleep on your left side. This will help relieve pressure on the big veins that drain the blood from the legs to the heart,

· Reduce sodium intake to minimise swelling of the veins,

· Avoid sitting or standing in the same position for long periods of time,

· Avoid wearing high heels. Wearing lower-heel or flat shoes will work the calf muscles thus improve leg circulation,

· Avoid crossing the legs while sitting.

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