While not so fun to look at, varicose veins are not harmful- just an annoying casualty of pregnancy. They are different from spider veins, another less than pleasant side effect of pregnancy, as varicose veins are larger, and tend to bulge. So what are these strange veins popping up on the lower half of your body and how can you prevent them?
What Are They?
Varicose veins are simply large, swollen blood vessels. They are usually found predominately on the legs, but can appear almost anywhere on the lower half of your body- even in the rectum or vulva. In fact, hemorrhoids are just varicose veins in the area around your rectum. When these veins swell above the surface of the skin, they create those purplish lumps.
What Causes Them?
In order to support two growing bodies, you produce extra blood volume during pregnancy. This puts pressure on your blood vessels, especially the veins in your legs. These veins have to work against gravity to push the extra blood back to your heart. This in addition to the burgeoning uterus puts on the pelvic blood vessels, and the vessel-relaxing effects of the extra progesterone that your body produces during pregnancy, causes varicose veins to appear usually around the 29th week of pregnancy.
Will I Get Them?
While you are probably less than pleased with the way varicose veins look, and they may itch or be uncomfortable, they are unlikely to put you or your baby at risk. If you do notice them appearing while you are pregnant, if you did not have them pre-pregnancy, don’t be too alarmed- they will disappear or at least significantly shrink within a few months after your delivery. However, if you have another baby, it is difficult to prevent these veins from popping up again- if a vein has already swollen it is likely to swell again. However, similar to other pregnancy symptoms, varicose veins are hereditary. Not all women get them- if your mother didn’t, you may not either.
How Can I Prevent Them?
-Keep your blood flowing. Get off your feet whenever you can, and keep your legs elevated when sitting. When standing, put one foot on a low stool and alternate legs. Flex your ankles every so often, and break the habit of sitting with your legs crossed (this strategy also helps keep spider veins at bay). Exercise is also key in increasing blood circulation.
-Stay comfy. Make sure you wear clothes fit well and aren’t too tight, especially around the tops of your legs. Be especially careful about items placed on your lower body, such as tight socks or belts.
– You may want to enlist the help of support pantyhose, which can counteract the pressure of your belly and give the veins a little extra push upward. Putting them on first thing in the morning will prevent blood from pooling.
– Don’t gain anymore weight than your doctor recommends- the excess weight only increases the demands on your already overworked circulatory system.
-Sleep on your left side. This helps avoid pressure on your main blood vessels and keep circulation going strong.
-Don’t strain. Heavy lifting can add to vein visibility, besides; you shouldn’t really be doing any heavy lifting while pregnant anyway!
– A balanced pregnancy diet keeps veins healthy. Make sure to eat lots of foods with vitamin c, which helps your body produce collagen, and elastic, which your body uses to produce collagen and elastic.