How to stop varicose veins in pregnancy
Varicose veins

Varicose veins in pregnancy

Varicose veins are a common side effect of pregnancy. Put simply, they’re blood vessels that have become swollen due to blood leaking back into them instead of flowing upwards, are often blue or blue-purple in colour and protrude through the skin, usually appearing on the thighs or calves.

The effect of female hormones

While the cause of varicose veins isn’t fully known, scientists do know that they run in families and that women suffer from them more often than men, due to changes in oestrogen levels, which occurs during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Why pregnancy causes varicose veins

The volume of blood in your body increases during pregnancy and this can lead to the enlargement of veins. The expansion of your uterus also adds to the pressure on your veins. While they usually return to normal after the birth, the likelihood of them developing into varicose veins increases each time you fall pregnant. Varicose veins in the anal area, known as haemorrhoids, can also occur during pregnancy.

How to spot early symptoms

If you act early enough, you can help prevent varicose veins from occurring or reduce their effect. Look for the symptoms – pain, swelling, numbness, legs that get tired easily, skin darkening and itchy skin irritation on your thighs or legs.

How to prevent varicose veins

  • There’s no reason to stop exercising when you’re pregnant, as long as you take advice from an expert.Start an exercise regime that focuses on improving leg strength and circulation, including cycling, walking or jogging.
  • Eat a diet that’s high in fibre, but low in salt. The fibre will help prevent constipation which can play a role in the development of varicose veins. If you reduce your salt levels, your body will retain less water and reduce swelling.
  • Watch your weight – the more kilos you’re carrying, the greater the pressure on your calves and legs.
  • Avoid crossing your legs when sitting, as this hinders leg circulation. Keep your legs elevated when you’re sleeping or resting and avoid sitting/standing for long periods of time.

What can you do about them?

Varicose veins are not really dangerous to health but they more often than not become worse and lead to health conditions that range from serious to uncomfortable. If severe, varicose veins can lead to health problems such as blood clots, venous eczema, skin breakdown and ulceration and, rarely, skin cancers. If you do suffer from varicose veins, consult your GP, and you might be advised to undergo sclerotherapy, a treatment that involves injecting a solution into unwanted varicose veins.

What sclerotherapy involves

A solution is injected into the vein that causes it to shrivel up and gradually disappear in around two to six months. Each vein may require several injections, which take place a few weeks apart. A fine needle is used for injecting that feels like a mild pinprick.

After the procedure

To improve the blood circulation in the deep veins, you’ll need to walk more after the treatment, along with wearing a compression stocking to reduce the risk of bruising, swelling, inflammation and clots.

This article was written by Joanna Bounds for and has been adapted for

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