Morning sickness and heartburn are two common discomforts of pregnancy, but did you know that some expectant mothers also experience varicose veins? This is because the maternal vascular system undergoes significant changes during pregnancy. Blood volume increases dramatically to support the fetus, and the growing uterus presses on abdominal veins, which hampers the return of blood from the legs. Both factors can put extra strain on the veins in the lower body, increasing the risk of varicose veins.
Although unsightly and sometimes uncomfortable, varicose veins are common during pregnancy and usually go away without treatment. Here are some ways to help ease varicose vein discomfort.
Wear Compression Stockings
Fitted compression stockings help boost circulation, reduce venous inflammation, and ease swelling by applying firm and constant pressure on the veins in the lower legs. This encourages blood to flow upward from the legs to the heart.
The stockings should be worn as soon as you get up in the morning — before the blood has a chance to pool in your lower extremities — and removed before you go to bed. Consult with your doctor to ensure you get the right length and strength of compression socks.
Sleep on Your Left Side
Sleeping on your left side puts less pressure on your vena cava — a large vein that carries deoxygenated blood back to the heart from your legs and feet. This position allows for maximum blood flow and nutrients to reach the fetus and also enhances kidney function.
Get Regular Exercise
Staying active during pregnancy helps improve blood circulation and build stamina. Try low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, gentle stretching, and prenatal yoga. Avoid jogging since it can put more stress on the veins in your legs.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Proper nutrition during pregnancy is vital for the health and wellbeing of your baby, but eating for two doesn’t mean consuming twice as much food. Pregnant women need only about 300 extra calories a day. Indulging in food cravings every now and then is normal, but gaining weight in a short amount of time can put more pressure on your leg veins. The normal weight gain for a healthy pregnant woman is 25 to 35 pounds, but you should consult with your obstetrician to determine how much weight you should gain during your pregnancy.
Wear Non-Restrictive Clothing
Avoid tight-fitting garments whenever possible, since they can aggravate varicose veins and restrict blood flow to the lower body. Instead, opt for looser clothing and accessories to ensure comfort and proper circulation.
Be sure to avoid high heels, since they change your natural walking motion and cause a less forceful calf muscle pump, which can lead to pooling of venous blood in the legs. Consider wearing comfortable shoes with built-in arch support on a daily basis and save the high heels for special occasions.
Consume Foods With Fiber and Vitamin C
Eating a healthy diet rich in fiber and vitamin C can help improve vein health. Fibrous foods keep your digestive system moving and prevent constipation, which can contribute to varicose veins.
Vitamin C helps the body build collagen and elastin — both of which are used to repair and maintain veins and keep them strong and flexible. Consider adding foods that are high in vitamin C to your diets, such as oranges, strawberries, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers.
Elevate Your Legs
Prolonged sitting and standing can irritate and worsen varicose veins, so it’s advisable to elevate your feet whenever you can. Aim to get up and move around or change positions frequently to help keep your blood circulating successfully. Avoid sitting with crossed legs, as this can further restrict blood flow to the lower extremities and cause circulation issues.
Alleviating discomfort caused by varicose veins is possible with the right lifestyle changes. For some women, varicose veins may fade away in post-partum; however, others may struggle from a common, underlying condition known as venous insufficiency, or vein disease for short. It’s important to consult with a vein specialist if your varicose veins or leg pain do not go away after your pregnancy. For more ways, you can alleviate vein discomfort during pregnancy, see the accompanying infographic.
Author bio: Dr. Yan Katsnelson is the founder of USA Vein Clinics, the largest, a national network of vein treatment centers committed to improving lives through minimally invasive treatments of venous insufficiency. USA Vein Clinics specializes in the treatment of varicose veins and spider veins through endovenous laser treatment (EVLT), ClariVein, Varithena vein treatment, ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, and sclerotherapy injections.
Graphic created by USA Vein Clinics.
Featured Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash