While heredity is the number one cause of vein disease, women are at higher risk than men, primarily because pregnancy runs a close #2, and significantly increases the likelihood of developing varicose veins.
Veins are the blood vessels that return blood from the extremities to the heart, so the blood in leg veins is already working against gravity. During pregnancy, additional factors take effect. The growing uterus puts pressure on the central vein on the right side of the body (the inferior vena cava), which in turn increases pressure in the leg veins. During pregnancy the amount or volume of blood in the body increases, further adding to the burden on the veins. In addition, hormone levels vary tremendously, such as rising progesterone levels which cause the vein walls to relax.
In order to slow or prevent the progression of varicose veins during pregnancy:
- Exercise daily to maintain good circulation
- Strive to keep within the recommended weight range during the pregnancy
- Elevate your feet and legs whenever possible
- Don’t sit or stand for long periods without taking breaks to move around
- Most importantly, wear medical-grade graduated compression stockings throughout the duration of your pregnancy. These stockings are available from vein clinics and medical supply stores. They have the highest level of compression at the ankle, which then slowly decreases in strength as they go up the leg, making it easier for blood to flow back up toward the heart. This leads to less venous pooling, and decreases the venous pressure in the limbs.
Please call Vein Centers for Excellence of Kansas City at 913-451-VEIN (8346) if you would like to schedule an appointment to be fitted for compression stockings to wear during your pregnancy.