If you’re expecting for the first time, here’s what you need to know about managing varicose veins and preventing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) during pregnancy.
Why do pregnant women get varicose veins?
Your body produces an extra volume of blood to support your growing baby. This adds pressure on the blood vessels, particularly the ones in your legs, which need to work harder to push the increased volume of blood back to your heart. Pregnancy weight gain and the pressure from your growing uterus also puts pressure on the pelvic blood vessels.
In addition to increased blood volume, your body also produces extra progesterone during pregnancy, which relaxes the vessels and makes varicose veins more likely to form.
Varicose veins tend to become more visible as your belly gets bigger later on in your pregnancy.
Can I prevent enlarged varicose veins from forming?
You can take measures to minimise the appearance of varicose veins though there’s no sure-fire way of preventing them from forming. Much like other pregnancy symptoms (i.e. stretch marks), varicose veins are often hereditary, so if your female relatives developed varicose veins during pregnancy, you may be more likely to have them. According to health experts, the same veins are likely to emerge again during subsequent pregnancies.
In most cases, if you didn’t have pronounced varicose veins before your pregnancy, enlarged veins that occur during pregnancy ought to recede or disappear in the months after delivery.
How can mums-to-be manage varicose veins?
You can manage the appearance of varicose veins with these safe and natural tips:
- Movement and exercise – Take a short walk or perform some low-impact exercises that help improve blood circulation. Studies also suggest that moving in water can be helpful, so perhaps go for a swim or sign up for some water aerobics classes.
- Elevation – Put your feet up when sitting and flex your ankles every now and then. If you have a habit of crossing your legs, be more mindful and avoid it as much as possible as it can hinder blood flow.
- Comfort – Wear comfortable clothes and avoid tight belts or bands that dig in. You should also avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes and very high heels for extended periods.
- Support – Maternity garments like pregnancy shorts can help support the weight of your uterus and growing baby, reducing pressure on the pelvic vessels. Compression stockings and/or knee-high travel socks can also minimise swelling and venous pressure particularly for women who are sedentary or spend long periods of time standing.
What is the difference between varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
DVT is a specific condition in which a blood clot develops in a deep vein.
Some common symptoms of DVT include:
- Tenderness, redness and/or warmth in the area of the clot
- Mild to severe swelling in the affected leg
- A painful or heavy sensation in the leg similar to a pulled muscle
DVT is more common during pregnancy because the level of blood-clotting proteins in the body increases as levels of anti-clotting protein go down. Experts believe that this is to increase the blood’s clotting ability and limit bleeding during childbirth. Women who have a family history of blood clotting disorders are at higher risk of DVT.
In extreme cases, a blood clot can travel from the leg to the lungs, resulting in pulmonary embolism (PE) which is potentially life-threatening. SO early intervention and management is paramount.
How can I manage DVT and blood clots during pregnancy?
These tips can help reduce your likelihood of developing DVT:
- Stay active – As long as exercise is not contraindicated during your pregnancy, light exercise has been shown to improve circulation and minimise the risk of DVT. If sitting or stationary for long periods of time perform regular foot and ankle pumps to boost circulation and avoid crossing your legs
- Wear compression garments – Graduated compression stockings/leggings and travel socks provide more compression in the foot and lower leg than the upper leg thereby improving blood flow back to the heart, reducing venous pressure and minimising the risk of DVT which can help minimise swelling from DVT.
Solidea offers a wide range of medical grade compression garments for your pregnancy and postpartum needs. Browse our store today for pregnancy shorts, compression socks and more.