Varicose veins

Many women see their first varicose vein during pregnancy…..usually on the lower part of the leg or the thigh. A varicose vein may appear as a bulge in the skin, or one may clearly see the vein itself. Often the vein is twisted and bumpy. The area around a varicose vein may feel uncomfortable.

What causes varicose veins? It’s the hormone thing, again (that, and your genetic material). Some of the hormones of pregnancy cause the walls of the veins to relax. When the vein walls relax they allow more blood to stay in the vein. The pressure from the increased volume makes the veins dilate (similar to the effect of a tourniquet when your blood is drawn from your arm). If the vein is dilated too much, the vein wall can be overstretched and damaged. These damaged veins will never be the same, and the varicosity will exist after pregnancy.

Many, if not most, of the varicose veins in pregnancy will improve dramatically after pregnancy……even some of the largest and worst-looking ones. You probably cannot do much about a varicose vein in the early stages. However, you may be able to prevent the vein wall from permanent damage.

Try to avoid prolonged standing….especially if you are unable to move your legs. Every few inches, your veins contain a stop valve. The action of your leg muscles causes this valve to work as a tiny pump. If you move and flex your leg muscles while you are standing, the action of the valves prevents blood from pooling in the veins. Also, whenever you can, elevate your legs (and hips). If you sit at a desk for long periods, it helps to put a little footstool underneath for your feet to rest on. If the varicosities appear to be getting worse, buy some maternity support hose. Don’t buy the cheap ones, but don’t buy the most expensive ones, either. Buy the $6-12 ones, and get 2 or 3, so that you can wear one while the other set(s) is drying after daily washing (just wash them in the sink).