advice

put your feet up:
varicose veins during pregnancy

Pregnancy is full of surprising symptoms and physical changes – and many of us are startled to see a varicose vein suddenly pop up. These swollen veins are a common pregnancy symptom, and although uncomfortable, they aren’t serious.

what are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are bulging bluey-purple veins that appear just under your skin, usually on your legs. Many people develop them – especially if they run in the family – and they’re a common pregnancy symptom.

You’re more likely to suffer from varicose veins during pregnancy because of the extra pressure on your pelvis and large vein (inferior vena cava) combined with the increase in blood circulating round your body.

They can be a bit itchy and uncomfortable. In more severe cases, they can cause muscle cramps at night and heavy, aching legs during the day.

easing any discomfort

Unfortunately, you can’t prevent varicose veins during pregnancy, but you can make them feel better by trying to:

  • avoid standing or sitting still for long periods
  • avoid sitting with your legs crossed (which gets tricky towards the third trimester anyway!)
  • put your feet up
  • sleep with your feet propped up on a pillow or cushion, as well as on your left side to take the pressure off your inferior vena cava
  • wear maternity support tights or compression stockings
  • be aware of your weight gain – pregnancy pounds can make you prone to varicose veins

just keep moving...

Gentle antenatal exercises can help your circulation – regular walking and swimming are both great. If you’re desk-bound during the day, get up every half an hour or so and move around a bit.

You can also do foot exercises to help the circulation. Try these simple moves throughout the day, one foot at a time:

  • bend and stretch your feet up and down around 30 times
  • rotate your feet clockwise eight times, then anticlockwise eight times

vulvar varicose veins

Varicose veins don’t just pop up on your legs. Pregnant women can also develop vulvar varicose veins in and around the vagina.

If you find one of these, there’s no need to worry – they don’t usually cause any problems. If the vein is in the perineal area, your midwife will monitor it closely during labour to make sure it doesn’t tear when you reach the pushing stage. A torn varicose vein can bleed heavily, so your midwife will encourage you to push slowly and use delivery positions that take the pressure off the vein.

what happens to varicose veins after pregnancy?

The good news is that vulvar varicose veins clear up after the birth.

If the veins on your legs don’t disappear after your baby has arrived, you can choose to have them treated (although this isn’t always available on the NHS). Some women wait until they’ve had all their children before doing this, as the varicose veins may simply reappear or get worse with each pregnancy. Options include chemical injections, surgery, radiotherapy or laser treatment.