The female body is an amazing thing — especially when it comes to the miracle of life! There are so many incredible changes that happen during pregnancy, but growing a tiny human can also come with some less-desirable side effects — like varicose veins.
Varicose veins are a common, often harmless part of pregnancy for many women. As the uterus grows, it puts pressure on the large vein (called the inferior vena cava) that carries blood back to the heart from the legs and feet. Hormonal changes can also contribute to the development of varicose veins as increased levels of progesterone dilate the veins.
In pregnant women, varicose veins are most commonly found on the lower extremities, the genitals and the rectum (yup, those hemorrhoids are actually varicose veins, mama!) And they tend to be hereditary. So if your mom and grandmother had them, there’s a good chance they’re in your future, too.
But while these unsightly bulges may be itchy or downright painful throughout your journey to motherhood, the good news is there are things you can do to help alleviate discomfort and help minimize your risk.
- Get off your feet! Don’t stand for long periods of time if you can avoid it.
- Get the right support. Wear compression stockings or tight-fitting bike shorts to help compress right areas.
- Don’t sit with your legs crossed.
- Get up and move! If you sit at a desk for work or for long periods of time, get up and move around to get the blood flowing in your legs.
- Put your feet up! Elevate your legs every chance you get and let gravity do its thing.
- Go leftie! Lay on your left side to sleep to help with blood flow in the vena cava.
- Work out! Okay, we know you’re exhausted — but there are a lot of benefits to some light exercise for expectant mamas!
If you happen to look down and see those blue and purple bulges in your calves, don’t stress.
“Varicose veins shrink certainly after pregnancy and some of the symptoms can be alleviated,” said Dr. Alissa Brotman-O’Neill, a surgeon at The Princeton Vascular Center in New Jersey. “But oftentimes, there’s pressure and hormonal changes, and the veins are dilated and they don’t go back to the way they were.”
For mommies looking to make this unfortunate side effect of pregnancy a distant memory, Brotman-O’Neill said there are treatments available — just wait until after your little bundle arrives.