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 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 of blood in the body increases, adding to the burden on the veins. Also, progesterone levels rise causing 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
- Wear medical-grade graduated compression stockings. These stockings are available from vein clinics and medical supply stores. They’re tightest at the ankle and get looser as they go up the leg making it easier for blood to flow back up toward the heart.
Dr. Robert Cutchen