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Varicose veins are common during pregnancy and are a concern for many women. Fortunately, they are rarely a serious problem and can be dealt with effectively. I will answer some common questions that women have regarding varicose veins and pregnancy:

What causes varicose veins during pregnancy?

There are several things that cause varicose veins to develop during pregnancy. For one, the amount of blood in your system is increased to provide blood to the baby. This increased blood volume also causes your veins to increase in size. In addition, the hormone increases during pregnancy cause the veins to soften and enlarge, which makes varicose veins more likely to occur. The growing uterus causes increased pressure within the abdomen and the compression of the uterus on the veins in the abdomen and pelvis that bring blood back from the legs can lead to varicose veins.

How can varicose veins be treated in pregnancy?

We recommend only conservative treatment during pregnancy rather than procedures. These conservative treatments include avoiding sitting or standing in the same position for too long, elevating the legs when you can, and wearing compression stockings. Walking and exercise also help the circulation and can improve varicose veins. Wearing high heels can keep the muscles in the legs from helping to bring the blood back up the legs.

Can varicose veins in pregnancy be prevented?

It is difficult to prevent varicose veins from forming during pregnancy, but by practicing the conservative measures described above, you may be able to delay their onset and lessen their effect. Varicose veins tend to develop towards the latter half of pregnancy. Family history also plays an important role so if other family members have had varicose veins, then you will be more likely to form them. Fortunately, in many women the varicose veins that form during pregnancy will often go away within 9 to 12 months after delivery. If not, they can then be effectively treated. If you develop varicose veins during pregnancy, there is a good chance that you may have them occur again with future pregnancies.

What are the risks of varicose veins during pregnancy?

Varicose veins can cause many symptoms during pregnancy, including localized pain, itching, and burning. In more severe cases, they can cause generalize leg heaviness and swelling. The main medical risk is the chance of developing blood clots within the varicose veins. This is called superficial thrombosis and is not as dangerous as deep vein thrombosis. Superficial thrombosis does not require blood thinners, but sometimes requires treatment with aspirin or Advil type medications. There is a low risk that the superficial thrombosis can extend into the deeper veins.

Will varicose veins have a bad effect on my baby?

No, varicose veins in pregnancy will not have an adverse effect on your baby and won’t put your baby at any risk.

Michael Karnaze
About the Author

Dr. Karnaze has spent the past 25 years perfecting minimally invasive techniques to treat arterial and venous diseases. In addition, he is a renowned expert in newer minimally invasive therapies for cancer patients. He joined Fairfax Radiology in 1988, is certified by the American Board of Radiology and has received subspecialty certification in Vascular and Interventional Radiology.