Veins and Pregnancy

Ladies, we can start by thanking our parents for passing down the gene that makes us prone to developing varicose veins and now we can thank our children for making them worse. If it’s in our family, it seems that we are stuck in the middle. We are doomed to get unsightly, painful leg veins. Varicose veins are a common problem that is passed down genetically. Whether you develop them before, during or post partum is based on the individual and there is no way to predict when the first vein will appear.

The veins typically begin as a small spider vein. Spider veins are flat red, blue or purple colored veins that do not protrude from the skin surface. They usually appear in clusters with the outside of the leg, behind the knee and the inside thigh being the most common locations. Some people never develop a spider vein but you can develop a bulging vein. A bulging vein is called a varicose vein, and it is a protruded vessel off of the skin surface. It is a weakened and enlarged part of a vein that is attempting to carry blood upward.

Arteries take blood from the heart and bring it to the feet. That blood needs to return back to the heart and does so by transportation through veins. Now, imagine that the flow of the liquid is upstream and against gravity. In order to ensure that the blood flows against gravity and back to the heart, veins have valves. The purpose of the valves is to ensure a one way flow of the blood back to the heart. A push of blood moves upward through open valves. Then the valves quickly close so that the blood cannot trickle back down towards the ground. This occurs in normal, healthy veins.

In veins that are weakened a few things occur. The first is that the vein wall becomes weakened over time as it cannot hold the force of pressure or gravity towards the floor. The vein wall is made of smooth muscle that can become weakened with loss of muscle protein. When the vein wall weakens, it enlarges and the valves cannot close holding the blood and allowing it to travel upward. The result is blood that attempts to move upward, but trickles back down the leg. This is called venous insufficiency.

In pregnancy, two main factors contribute to varicose veins and leg swelling. The first is that progesterone, one of the main hormones circulating in the body, is a smooth muscle relaxer. Remember, the vein walls are made of smooth muscle. Thus, as progesterone relaxes smooth muscle it makes it harder for the vein valves to touch and close. This leads to venous insufficiency, varicose veins and swelling. Second, the pressure of the uterus bearing down on the veins of the leg will cause an increase in pressure. This increase in pressure makes it difficult for blood to move against gravity. The blood and fluid collects in the legs and extra fluid leaves the blood vessels to fill the soft tissues of the legs. When this happens, the result is swelling, tired, aching and heaviness in the legs, discoloration of the foot and ankle, spider veins, varicose veins, and even redness and warmth and a blue discoloration.

Conservative care options during pregnancy include rest and elevation of the legs and the use of compression stockings. By elevating your legs, you are reversing the pull of gravity and the blood flow and swelling can move back to the heart. Compression stockings or graduated compression therapy assists in moving blood back to the heart. The tight stocking helps to milk fluid in the upward direction and brings the blood vessel closer together in an effort to help the valves close.

Other nature homeopathic remedies have included rubbing garlic oil, horse chestnut abstract, Flavonoids, citrus fruits, apple cider vinegar and mud baths. Flavonoids are anti oxidants that help to decrease inflammation, strengthen the vein walls and prevent vein weakening. All of these modalities may help decrease your symptoms of tired, aching and heavy legs but they will not permanently correct the underlying problem.

In most instances, the swelling and varicose veins return to normal after the delivery of the baby. Veins that remain after six weeks are likely to stay until treatment is obtained. An evaluation is performed with an ultrasound to evaluate the blood circulation and treatment options include injection sclerotherapy, foam sclerotherapy, ultrasound guided sclerotherapy, Endovenous laser ablation, Radiofrequency Ablation, a Polidocanol Foam endovenous technique, Venaseal or Clarivein.