Why Do Pregnant Women Tend to Develop Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins often appear first in pregnancy, and further pregnancies can make them worse.

Three factors contribute to the formation of varicose veins in pregnant women, says Dr. Luis Navarro, a surgeon, phlebologist and director of The Vein Treatment Center in Manhattan.First, there’s an increase in female hormones, which can weaken the vein walls, he says. Second, there’s a greater volume of blood circulating through the body because of the need to also nourish the fetus. And third, the growing uterus presses on the veins in the belly, making it harder for the veins in the legs to push the blood back up to the heart. The blood then pools in some leg and ankle veins, which makes them bulge and become unsightly and uncomfortable, Navarro says.

To help prevent the varicose veins from forming, pregnant women should consider wearing maternity compression stockings from early in pregnancy and on, should do exercises that strengthen the muscles in their legs, should stand up and walk every hour, and should put their legs up whenever they can, Navarro says.

Patients with varicose veins often develop aching, throbbing, cramping, burning, itching and other symptoms that may indicate a need for medical attention.

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