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Varicose Veins in Pregnancy

Varicose Veins in Pregnancy


Varicose veins of the Vulva (Vulvar) and Labia

More than 40 percent of pregnant women experience problems with varicose veins of the leg and or vulva during their pregnancy. In addition thread veins, spider veins or broken veins often develop on the legs.  Varicose veins in pregnancy is therefore a very common problem.


Appearance of Varicose Veins in Pregnancy

The varicose veins that appear during pregnancy can occur in embarrassing positions.  The varicose veins that appears during pregnancy therefore occurs not only on the leg but also in the vulva (vulvar)/ labia and vagina (birth canal).


These varicose veins generally deteriorate during the third period or trimester of pregnancy (last 13 weeks).  During this phase, both large swollen varicose veins and purplish spider veins, thread veins or broken veins develop over the leg.  In some patients this can be very severe.  The more pregnancies (multiparous) you have the more likely the varicose veins will appear.   Thus varicose veins may be very visible or obvious during the third pregnancy compared with the first pregnancy when they may not have been visible.


Symptoms of Varicose Veins in Pregnancy

Apart from being very unsightly these veins can be very painful and tender.  The legs may feel very heavy particularly towards the end of the day.


Sometimes the varicose veins may become hard, red and tender and may develop some blood clots.  This is known as thrombophlebitis.    If you have symptoms of thrombophlebitis of your varicose veins during pregnancy then you should seek urgent medical advice.


Causes of Varicose Veins in Pregnancy

Female sex hormones are a major cause of varicose veins in pregnancy.  While you are pregnant, your body undergoes a great deal of changes. Your hormone levels change and result in changes in your body. One of these changes is that you often have an increased amount of progesterone. This can cause the blood vessels to relax, leading to swelling of the veins.  This can result in the varicose veins seen during pregnancy.  In addition the female sex hormones can directly cause spider veins, thread veins and broken veins during pregnancy.

Family History and Varicose Veins
If you have a history of varicose veins in your family, you're more likely to develop varicose veins.   Conversely if you don't have a family history of varicose veins, then you are less likely to have them yourself. It is important to note, as well, that varicose veins tend to get worse with each pregnancy. If you have a family history, and you had them during your first pregnancy, the chances are good that you will have them in increasing strength in subsequent pregnancies.  In other words women who have multiple pregnancies are more likely to develop deteriorating and severe varicose veins during each pregnancy.

The Effect of the Pregnant Uterus on Varicose veins
The increased blood that you have in your body during pregnancy places extra burden on your veins. In addition, as your uterus grows, it creates pressure on the major veins in your pelvic area. This pressure then adds more pressure to the large vein on the right side of your body called the inferior vena cava. This added pressure pushes on the leg veins and may result in varicose veins during pregnancy.

Additional Causes of Varicose Veins during Pregnancy
Researchers have found a few other reasons that women may have varicose veins during pregnancy. If you are having multiple births, then you are more likely to develop varicose veins. This is partly due to the added pressure on your uterus and the added blood in your circulation system. While this situation can't be changed, there are others that can. If you are overweight or stand on your feet for long periods of time while pregnant, you are more susceptible to varicose veins. Both of these situations put added pressure on your veins and can lead to varicose veins.

Care of Your legs and Varicose Veins during Pregnancy
and Advice

While you certainly can't alter your family history or change your growing uterus, there are certain actions that you can take to help with varicose veins. When people tell you to put your legs up while pregnant - they may not realize that they are actually giving you varicose vein help. It is very important to put your legs up while pregnant, as it gives your veins a break and releases the pressure that is on them. You should try to make sure that you go into your pregnancy at a healthy weight and that you eat well while pregnant. The good news with varicose veins is that they usually disappear after the baby has arrived. They tend to improve three to four months after you've given birth. While you are still dealing with the varicose veins, it's best to wear support hose, to exercise often and to avoid standing for long periods of time.


Wearing Class 2 support tights or stockings or other forms of compression hose may help reduce the number of veins you get during pregnancy.  You should seek medical advice if you are unsure which is most effective.


If you get thrombophlebitis or blood clots in your varicose veins during pregnancy you should seek urgent medical advice.


If you find that the varicose veins don't go away 3 months after the birth of your child, you'll want to talk to a doctor to discuss treatment.


At the British Varicose Vein centre you can assured bespoke treatment for varicose veins associated with pregnancy is offered. This may vary from minor thread veins to leg varicose veins to vulval (Vulvar/ labial) and vaginal varicose veins.   The treatment may therefore require the expert services of a Vascular surgeon, Vascular Scientist and an Interventonal Radiologist.



For further information or to arrange a consultation with one of our vein specialists to discuss your needs, please call:


Telephone: 0207 286 7274

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contacts St John and Elizabeth Hospital

For further information or to arrange a consultation contact us by the following ways:

Head Office.
The Hospital of St Johns and St. Elizabeth,
Grove End Road,
London. NW8 9NH.

0207 286 7274
0207 078 3877

Medical Director:
Mr David Greenstein MD BSc FRCS
Consultant Vascular Surgeon


St John and Elizabeth Hospital

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