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Proven Strategies to Alleviate Varicose Vein Pain and Discomfort

Pregnancy is a time of significant physiological changes, and one common but often misunderstood issue is the development of varicose veins. These swollen, twisted veins can cause discomfort and concern for many expectant mothers. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of why varicose veins occur during pregnancy and what can be done to manage them.

The Prevalence of Varicose Veins in Pregnancy

Varicose veins are a common occurrence during pregnancy, affecting up to 40% of pregnant women. This high prevalence underscores the importance of understanding this condition and its implications for maternal health.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are dilated, twisted veins that typically appear on the thighs, legs and feet. They occur when the walls of the vessel become stretched and or damaged.  While they can be unsightly, it’s important to note that this is not just a cosmetic issue.  Varicose veins are almost always a sign of a deeper vascular problem called venous reflux where the valves in the deep veins do not close properly which can happen due to a variety of reasons. 

Physiological Factors Contributing to Varicose Veins in Pregnancy

Several pregnancy-related physiological changes contribute to the development of varicose veins:

1. Increased Blood Volume

During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume increases by 20-40%. This substantial increase is necessary to support fetal growth and development but puts additional pressure on the venous system, particularly in the lower extremities due to gravity.

2. Hormonal Changes

Pregnancy hormones, especially progesterone, play a significant role in the development of varicose veins. Medical literature indicates that progesterone causes relaxation of vein walls, which can lead to venous dilation and reduced valve efficiency.

3. Uterine Enlargement

As pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus exerts pressure on the inferior vena cava, the large vein responsible for returning blood from the lower body to the heart. Research has shown that this pressure can inhibit blood flow back to the heart.  This in turn causes the increased pressure in the vein below this area as they try to push the blood through the compressed vein.  The increased pressure stretches the vessels contributing to the formation of varicose veins.

4. Weight Gain

The natural weight gain associated with pregnancy adds additional pressure on the veins the same as above, further stressing the venous system.

5. Genetic Predisposition and Multiple Pregnancies

It’s worth noting that the risk of developing varicose veins increases by approximately 20% with each subsequent pregnancy. Additionally, women with a family history of varicose veins or who are over 35 years old are also at higher risk.

Management Strategies for Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

While it’s not always possible to prevent varicose veins during pregnancy, there are several evidence-based strategies that can help manage symptoms and potentially reduce their severity:

  1. Regular Exercise: Engaging in low-impact physical activity can improve circulation and help prevent blood pooling in the legs.  Exercises that activate the calf such as cycling, elliptical, swimming and rowing tend to be the most effective.

  2. Leg Elevation: Elevating the legs above heart level when resting uses gravity to assist in venous return.
  3. Compression Therapy: Research suggests that wearing compression stockings, even just over the lower legs,  can be effective in managing varicose veins by promoting better blood flow.
  4. Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight gain during pregnancy, as recommended by healthcare providers, can help minimize additional pressure on the venous system.
  5. Sleeping Position: Sleeping on the left side can help relieve pressure on the inferior vena cava, potentially improving venous return from the lower body.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While varicose veins during pregnancy are typically benign, certain symptoms warrant medical evaluation:

  • Significant pain or swelling in the legs
  • Warm, red, or tender veins that are painful to touch
  • Any bleeding from varicose veins

These symptoms could indicate complications such as edema, superficial clot or DVT, which require prompt medical attention.

Treatment After Pregnancy

For women experiencing persistent varicose veins after pregnancy, several minimally invasive treatment options are available. These procedures, typically performed on an outpatient basis, include sclerotherapy, endovenous laser treatment (EVLT), radiofrequency ablation (RFA), VenaSeal and phlebectomy. Sclerotherapy involves injecting a solution to collapse smaller veins, while EVLT and RFA use heat energy to seal off larger varicose veins. VenaSeal, a newer technique, employs a medical adhesive to close affected vein and phlebectomies are used to remove superficial varicosities after the feeding vessels have been treated.  Studies have shown these methods to be highly effective with low complication rates and faster recovery times compared to traditional surgical approaches.

It’s important to note that most vascular specialists recommend waiting at least three months postpartum before pursuing any invasive treatments.  This allows time for natural improvement and hormone stabilization. Consultation with a qualified vascular specialist is crucial to determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on individual circumstances and the severity of the condition.


Varicose veins are a common and often unavoidable aspect of pregnancy for many women. While they can be uncomfortable and aesthetically displeasing, it’s important to remember that effective treatments are available, especially for those experiencing persistent symptoms postpartum.

Understanding the physiological factors contributing to varicose veins during pregnancy is the first step in managing this condition. By implementing the strategies discussed and seeking appropriate care, you can effectively navigate this aspect of your pregnancy and post-pregnancy journey.

At Colorado Skin & Vein, we understand the unique challenges that pregnancy-related varicose veins can present. Our team of board-certified specialists is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and extensive experience in treating varicose veins with minimally invasive procedures. We’re committed to helping you achieve both relief from symptoms and cosmetic improvement.

Don’t let varicose veins impact your confidence or quality of life. If you’re experiencing persistent varicose veins after pregnancy, we invite you to take the next step in your vein health journey. Contact Colorado Skin & Vein today for a free consultation. Our experts will provide a personalized assessment and discuss treatment options tailored to your specific needs.

Call us at 303.683.3235 or schedule your free consultation. Let us help you regain comfort and confidence in your legs.

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