Varicose veins are enlarged and painful, tortuous veins. They most often occur in the legs. Patients who have varicose veins are usually people with venous valves disorder. Although they most commonly occur in the thigh or leg, they can develop in other places. These varicose veins are often twisted, swollen and enlarged veins that appear blue or purplish on the skin.
For some patients, these tortuous veins are simply a cosmetic irritation. However, for some, they may cause troublesome symptoms. These veins connect with deeper veins in the leg. Furthermore, they play a role in transporting blood from the legs back up to the heart. Most commonly varicose veins occur in women in their 30s, and in pregnant women during the 2nd trimester.
Varicose and Swollen Veins During Pregnancy
We link varicose veins to increased pressure in the veins. In addition, women gain weight and volume during pregnancy. The average pregnancy increases the circulation of blood volume for about 50% which further increases pressure in the veins. Also, the sex hormone progesterone causes smooth muscle dilation of the walls of the veins. This causes them to engorge as they fill with blood.
When the valves of the veins become damaged or overloaded, the blood flows backwards. This causes them to create engorged and swollen veins. Varicose veins occur frequently during pregnancy. Moreover, the increased blood volume and added weight causes veins to work harder to pump blood back to the heart. When the valves become weak, the added vascular stress which is caused by pregnancy often creates visible varicose vein signs.
Where do varicose veins develop during pregnancy?
We mostly see varicose veins in the thighs or legs. However, they can also develop near the vulva or vagina. On top of that, the weight gain and the increase in vascular volume usually causes varicose veins during pregnancy. However, the position of the baby in the utero may also play a part.
The weight and pressure of the baby’s position can compress some parts of the lower abdomen. This can contribute to the development of varicose veins of the vulva or vagina. Due to the fact that women often develop varicose veins during pregnancy, it’s important to schedule a screening frequently.
Will varicose veins get worse during pregnancy?
Varicose veins often get worse during pregnancy. As weight and pressure increases, the veins become more prominent and start to swell. With time, the valves become overloaded which causes the veins to become engorged with blood. This can cause localized pain and itching near the varicose vein(s). Once varicose veins of the legs or thighs become prominent, it’s unlikely that they’ll resolve without any treatment. Although, varicose veins on the vulva often do get better once the woman gives birth.
How To Treat Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
The physicians usually don’t provide treatment for vulvar/vaginal varicosities. As we mentioned above, once the woman gives birth, the vein will usually subside. In some cases, rope-like veins remain there. Like leg vein treatments, we perform the treatment after the pregnancy is over for any remaining varicose or spider veins.
Who is at risk for developing varicose veins during pregnancy?
The biggest risk factor for developing vein problems during pregnancy is genetics. If you have a family history of varicose veins, we recommend that you get screened frequently. Other risk factors for varicose veins include:
- Extended Sitting
- Prolonged Standing
Females more commonly develop varicose veins. This is most likely because there is a link between varicose veins and the sex hormone progesterone. Weight and fluid retention have also been linked to developing varicose veins during pregnancy. Multiple pregnancies usually worsen the size, shape, and symptoms of varicose veins.
How will I know if I have varicose veins?
Many people see varicose veins as notorious for being unattractive and very prominent. If they occur on the legs, they can also cause the legs to swell, sometimes painfully. As varicose veins progress, some women develop discoloration around the ankles. Additionally, they can develop prominent rope-like veins along the lower leg and thigh. Women may feel heaviness or tiredness of the legs, or restless legs.
How are varicose veins diagnosed?
We conduct a simple physical examination to diagnose most cases of varicose veins. But, when it comes to legs, we may use a venous ultrasound to rule out the presence of blood clots. Moreover, with this test, we confirm the diagnosis of varicose veins. We also use this painless test to determine how much blood is flowing back into the legs. Further, we assess the valve function in the groin.
We do not recommend treatment for veins during pregnancy. Once you have given birth, we may treat any veins that do not resolve.