Varicose Veins and Pregnancy – Part I
Written by Dallas Vein Specialists on July 10, 2010
I frequently hear questions from female patients like “How do I prevent varicose veins during pregnancy?” or “What shall I do about my varicose veins now that I am pregnant?” Good questions that deserve proper answers.
Women who have the genetic predisposition for varicose veins, i.e. a family history of varicose veins, often develop them and suffer from them during their first pregnancy. A story I often hear from women is that they developed mild and few varicose veins with the first pregnancy only to have them become much worse and more difficult to tolerate during the second pregnancy. Something about that second pregnancy I guess.
Certainly it is true that varicose veins in pregnant women appear to worsen with each pregnancy, as do the symptoms of pain, fatigue, restlessness, cramping, and even itching. Additionally, there is an increased risk for acute clotting of the varicosities, a condition called acute thrombophlebitis, during pregnancy. This inflammatory condition adds to the discomfort, and there is always concern that extension of the clot into the deep veins of the leg may lead to more serious and even life-threatening conditions.
Several factors are at play during pregnancy, which promote the varicose vein problem in pregnant women. There are circulating hormones of pregnancy that have direct influence on the veins and the valves in the veins causing both to become more distensible and less strong. The enlarging gravid uterus in the pelvis exerts direct pressure on the large veins of the abdomen and pelvis making it more difficult for venous blood to drain from the lower extremities and make its way through the pelvis and abdomen back to the heart. Finally there is an increased volume of blood in the circulation of pregnant women resulting in simply more blood in the legs for the veins to contain.
Next week more about varicose veins and pregnancy.