Did you know that varicose veins are common during pregnancy, particularly in women who have a family history of the condition? An expectant mother’s body prepares itself for a new bundle of joy by upping its production of progesterone and increasing blood volume to support the growing fetus. Both can make it easier to develop varicose veins.
Meanwhile, the growing uterus puts pressure on the inferior vena cava — a large vein that carries deoxygenated blood back to the heart. This, in turn, increases pressure in your leg veins. These changes can cause valves in the veins to trap blood rather than allow it to flow smoothly. This can cause venous insufficiency — and varicose and spider veins can be the visible result.
If you think you’re developing varicose veins or other painful vein symptoms in your legs during pregnancy, here are six tips that may help.
1. Avoid prolonged standing and sitting — Taking frequent breaks to move around can boost circulation. If your work involves prolonged standing, try wearing compression stockings to stimulate blood flow.
2. Skip high-heeled shoes — High heels change your natural walking motion, which shifts your weight to the forefoot and causes the leg muscles to remain contracted. This can result in a less forceful calf muscle pump, which can cause venous blood to pool in the lower leg. Consider wearing flat shoes with a good arch on a daily basis and save the high heels for special occasions.
3. Get regular exercise — Moving your body for just 20 minutes a day can improve your circulation and help keep your veins healthy. Walking is an excellent form of exercise during pregnancy, as are indoor stationary bicycling, swimming, and low-impact aerobics. In addition, you should get up and stretch or walk every 30 minutes throughout your day to avoid being stagnant.
4. Watch your weight — Food cravings might be hard to ignore when you’re pregnant, but you only need about 300 extra calories per day during your pregnancy. Increased weight puts more pressure on your veins. You can ask your obstetrician to help you determine how much weight you should be gaining between doctor visits.
5. Avoid crossing your legs —It’s important to watch how you sit especially for a prolonged time like when you’re watching TV or eating at the dinner table.Crossing your legs prevents blood from moving out of the veins and increases the pressure within them.
6. Consume foods with fiber and vitamin C — Eating fibrous foods can help keep your digestive system keep moving and prevent constipation, which can contribute to varicose veins. Vitamin C helps the body build collagen and elastin — both of which are used to repair and maintain veins. It plays a crucial role in strengthening the vein walls and also helps reduce inflammation. Try adding foods that are high in vitamin C to your diet, such as berries, oranges, broccoli, and lemons.
Most leg vein symptoms that occur during pregnancy are not serious and usually disappear within three months to a year after giving birth. However, some women may have continued pain even in postpartum. It’s important to reach out to a vascular specialist to determine if changing a few lifestyle habits are enough or if you need vein treatment.
For many women, practicing these basic precautionary measures can help lower the risk of developing varicose or spider veins during pregnancy. Check out more ways you can alleviate vein discomfort in the accompanying infographic.
Author bio: Dr. Yan Katsnelson is the founder of USA Vein Clinics, the largest national network of vein treatment centers committed to improving lives through minimally invasive treatments of venous insufficiency. USA Vein Clinics specializes in the treatment of varicose veins and spider veins through endovenous laser treatment (EVLT), ClariVein, Varithena vein treatment, ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, and sclerotherapy injections.Graphic created by USA Vein Clinics.