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Pregnancy: Varicose Veins

Overview

Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen veins near the surface of the skin. They're caused by faulty valves in the veins or weak vein walls. Varicose veins usually occur on the legs, but they can also affect the vulva. They are common during pregnancy.

When the growing uterus puts pressure on the veins that return blood from the legs, it becomes harder for blood to leave the legs. This can lead to pooled blood that causes one or more veins to swell. The extra weight of multiple fetuses puts an even greater burden on the deep veins in the legs.

People who have a family history of varicose veins are most likely to get them.

Avoiding varicose veins

Varicose veins are common during pregnancy. Here are some things you can try to lower your risk.

  • Try to avoid sitting or standing for long periods.

    Prolonged sitting or standing puts added stress on your veins. If your job requires lots of standing or sitting, ask your employer if you can take short breaks to walk around and get your blood moving. You can ask your doctor or midwife to write a note requesting these breaks or other adjustments so you can keep working.

  • Lie on your side when you are sleeping or resting.

    This takes the pressure off your leg veins, allowing normal blood flow.

  • Elevate your legs whenever possible.

    Gravity helps with blood return from your legs to your heart.

  • Wear compression stockings.

    Compression stockings are designed to help keep blood from pooling in your legs.

  • Get regular exercise.

    Being active helps improve blood flow in your legs.

Credits

Current as of: November 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine

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