Vein specialists now recommend that women seek early treatment of their spider and varicose veins before they get pregnant.
Giving birth is a celebrated miracle, yet a woman’s body goes through dramatic changes to make way for a new life. Spider and varicose veins worsen during the nine months of pregnancy and persist during the period of breast lactation. If a woman has associated risk factors for the development of spider and varicose veins, chances are that these abnormal veins will not simply disappear after childbirth. In most healthy adult women, however, abnormal veins will become more apparent during pregnancy and will slowly subside once childbirth and lactation are over.
Decades of research have shown that the physiologic changes that a woman undergoes during pregnancy place her at risk for the development of spider and varicose veins.
What are the top five factors that contribute to varicose veins in pregnant women?
- Increased circulatory volume
- Increased pressure in the abdomen and lower pelvis
- Increased amount of estrogen and progesterone in the blood
- Increased amount of Relaxin
- Decreased physical activity
During pregnancy, the body prepares to nourish and support the growing fetus by increasing the volume of circulating blood. The increase in blood puts extra pressure on the veins of the legs, causing them to naturally dilate and expand. This increase in volume is coupled by an increase in the blood levels of estrogen and progesterone, which act in concert to weaken the vein wall and increase vein capacitance (the ability of a vein to expand).
Estrogen and progesterone are essential during pregnancy, but act to non-selectively weaken collagen in the vein walls. We now know that pregnancy can exact a toll on spider and varicose veins.
What can women do to mitigate vein issues before pregnancy?
Years ago, women had few options for vein treatment if they were contemplating pregnancy in the near future. Traditional surgeries were invasive and did not warrant pre-pregnancy treatment in all but the most severe cases. As vein treatments became less invasive, the idea of treating spider and varicose veins before pregnancy became more feasible. Today, it is not uncommon for female patients to undergo vein treatment before their next pregnancy.
Vein specialists now recommend that women seek early treatment of their spider and varicose veins before they get pregnant. This is particularly true in women who have a strong personal and/or family history of vein problems. Treatment of early stage vein problems is less traumatic and easier than late stage chronic venous insufficiency. In addition, preventive strategies before pregnancy may limit the sequel associated with chronic vein disease.