Varicose Veins – What Exactly Are They?
Varicose veins are a common problem, especially during pregnancy.
So what are they? They are blood vessels, located just under the skin, which have twisted and widened as a result of defects in the valves located inside the veins.
Blood pools in vein sections, causing swelling and bulging in the vein.
Varicose veins mostly happen in the feet and legs, but they can also crop up in other body parts like the rectum, colon, stomach lining, and the lower end of your esophagus.
While varicose veins may be somewhat uncomfortable, for most people the problem is mostly a question of appearance.
The problem is that the veins look twisted and ropy, and they might even bulge out from under the skin.
Pregnancy And Varicose Veins
Pregnancy and Varicose Veins seem to go together ‘hand in hand’; they are so common that research indicates almost 40 percent of pregnant women have varicose veins.
This happens for many reasons, the 2 main ones are as follows:
The most common causes associated with pregnancy and varicose veins is when the hormonal changes happen, such as increases in levels of progesterone. This causes the blood vessels to relax. When they relax, two halves of vein’s valves might separate slightly.
In this case, their function (stopping blood from flowing backwards) is disrupted, and varicose veins may result.
The second major cause is that the growing uterus takes up space in the body, putting pressure on the inferior vena cava and pelvic veins.
As a result the blood presser in leg veins increases, increasing the chances that they will become varicose. As the baby grows, the uterus enlarges still further and any varicose veins tend to become that much more prominent.
Hereditary factors and weight also affect the condition.
Having a family history with varicose veins tends to mean you have a larger chance of developing the condition.
Similarly, women who are overweight have higher incidences of developing varicose veins.
While the most serious problem caused by varicose veins for most women is the effect on their vanity, they do sometimes itch, hurt, or produce more serious effects.
During a pregnancy, a type of varicose veins known as hemorrhoids can form around the anus or in the vagina. Blood clots can also form in varicose veins, which may in turn produce serious issues like chronic circulatory problems or worse.
Experiencing shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat might even be an indicator of pulmonary embolism, something which requires urgent medical attention.
How To Minimize Varicose Veins
The best way to avoid and minimize any varicose veins during pregnancy is to avoid placing too much pressure on your legs during the course of your pregnancy.
Going for some daily exercise, such as a short but brisk walk, can be very helpful.
Pregnant women should try and avoid standing for very long periods, instead elevating their legs and feet wherever they can.
While sleeping, try to sleep on your left side while putting your feet up on a pillow. Why? The inferior vena cava is located to the right side, by sleeping on your left then you will relieve it of having to support the uterus’ weight — and in turn decrease venous pressure in your lower extremities.
Wearing special support tights right before you get out of bed can also be healthy. This precaution stops excess blood from accumulating in your legs.
Similarly, avoid crossing your legs when you sit, and of course keep your body weight in check.
If you’re overweight, it often makes the problem even worse.
Thanks for reading.
The following YouTube video covers Varicose Veins during pregnancy & is by Dr. Cynthia Shortell who works at the Society for Vascular Surgery: