An estimated one in every five adults has varicose veins, and pregnancy often predisposes to developing them. One reason for their frequent occurrence in the legs of pregnant women is because of the pressure exerted on the lower extremities from normal pregnancy-related weight gain. Meanwhile, the US Office on Women’s Health notes that increased venous blood-pumping activity and volume occurs during pregnancy to support fetal growth, and also pressure exerted by the expanding uterus on a large vein (inferior vena cava) likewise increases pressure on vein walls.
Once a lower extremity varicosity develops, it rarely goes away on its own. At Palm Vein Center, we are experienced in treating varicose veins for both medical and cosmetic reasons.
Role of the Inferior Vena Cava
In contrast to the major vein termed the superior vena cava(that carries blood from the head and upper extremities to the heart), the inferior vena cava (IVC) carries de-oxygenated blood from the lower portion of the body to the right atrium of the heart. Compression of the IVC can constrict venous blood flow during pregnancy, and a supine sleeping position during middle or late pregnancy has been well-linked to the pregnancy-linked complication of supine hypotensive syndrome.
Potential Negative Impact of Varicose Veins in Lower Extremities
While the three most common negative effects of varicose veins in the lower extremities are an unsightly appearance, pain, and itchiness, a blood clot is a far more serious consequence. An increased risk for a blood clot exists in pregnant women – and up to three months following childbirth (per the Centers for Disease Control). Moreover, a blood clot can become a Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT), which can lead to a pulmonary embolism (a life-threatening disorder).
The American Society of Hematology reports that around 900,000 people in the US each year develop DVTs (resulting in up to 100,000 annual fatalities). Therefore, blood clots in pregnancy require immediate medical intervention.
Increased Hemorrhoid Risk in Pregnant Women
Hemorrhoids – swollen veins in the anus and rectum – are more likely to occur during pregnancy due to pressure from the enlarged uterus. Nearly 35 percent of all pregnant women develop hemorrhoids during their last trimester, but these usually resolve after birth of the newborn. Three other reasons that pregnant women in general are more likely to develop hemorrhoids than non-pregnant women are as follows:
- Constipation and resultant straining during bowel movements;
- Extra pressure on lower region of body resulting from carrying extra bodily weight;
- Extra pressure exerted by longer-than-normal periods of sitting or standing
Obesity as a Risk for Varicose Veins
Obesity is a risk factor for varicose veins in both pregnant and non-pregnant women (and also a varicose vein risk factor in men). Prevention of varicose vein development (as well as prevention of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease) may be achieved through weight loss to a Body Mass Index (BMI) within normal range. (However, evidence exists for a hereditary link to the development of varicose veins, as well.)
An increased risk for the following three pregnancy complications has also been linked to obesity during pregnancy:
- Gestational diabetes
Minimally-Invasive Therapy for Varicose Veins
One of the options offered for the treatment of varicose veins at Palm Vein Center are minimally-invasive procedures (e.g.,ambulatory phlebotomy). You do not have to feel that you have to live with painful or unsightly legs due to varicose or spider veins, and a consultation with one of our physicians – who are specialists in treating vein disorders – is recommended to select the best treatment approach for you.
Talk to our team to learn more about the best conservative and interventional treatment options for your vein condition.
The advice and information contained in this article are for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.
For more information on vein diseases and the treatments provided by the specialists at Palm Vein Center or to make an appointment, call 623-201-4777. We look forward to meeting you!