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Vein issues during pregnancy: Causes
Women can experience more issues with their veins during pregnancy. Possible causes:
- Change in hormone balance: The hormone-induced, reduced vascular muscle tension renders the vessels more elastic and wider. This leads to the venous valves no longer being able to close properly, which in turn causes a backlog of blood to form in the veins.
- Increase in blood volume: To ensure that your unborn child receives everything it needs as it grows, the expectant mother’s blood volume increases along with her heart rate. On average, expectant mothers have 40 per cent more blood in their bodies.2 This means the veins also have to do more.
- Weight gain: The natural weight gain increases the pressure on the leg veins. This can lead to a reduction in the return transport of venous blood to the heart. Furthermore, in the last trimester of pregnancy, the increasing weight of the child can lead to a mechanical obstruction in the pelvic veins.
Especially in women with additional risk factors – such as a genetic predisposition for venous disorders, obesity or lack of exercise – venous issues can develop into a chronic venous disease.
The typical symptoms of vein problems
In certain cases, changes in the leg veins during pregnancy cause barely any discomfort. Such changes often remain cosmetic and disappear of their own accord after delivery. However, sometimes during pregnancy, vein issues can materialise such as sore legs and more severe impairments. If left untreated, these can develop into a chronic venous disease.
Possible signs of impaired leg vein function include:
- tired legs
- swollen legs
- tingling and itching
But what specific vein problems exist that can accompany pregnancy?
Doctors also speak of “pregnancy-induced oedema” in cases of venous oedema in expectant mothers. These are hormonal in nature and are triggered by the decreasing muscle tension in the vessel wall: The blood volume increases while, at the same time, the vein walls slacken and the veins dilate. If the venous system has to work harder, but is unable to do so, venous oedema and varicose veins can occur as a result of blood congestion in the leg veins.
In the afternoon and evening, in particular, the symptoms become worse. And significantly swelling of the legs can occur.
Varicose veins (varices): Possible side effects during pregnancy
Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy often, but not always, disappear after birth. They appear visibly as bluish superficial veins, often in a meandering and nodular form. Although these venous changes can occur all over the body, they usually affect the legs, which can be painless despite the presence of varicose veins.
Pregnancy and spider veins
Spider veins are small dilated skin veins that often appear as bluish-violet “nests” on the skin’s surface. They mainly occur on the insides of the lower legs and thighs, as well as in the hollows of the knees and ankles.3 Sometimes, spider veins are also a harbinger of varicose veins later on during pregnancy.
The professional opinion counts
During pregnancy, a regular medical examination of the expectant mother and her child is particularly important. If the doctor makes a diagnosis during pregnancy, he or she will arrange for the necessary therapy. In the event of vein or back issues, the doctor can prescribe suitable medical aids from medi as needed. You can obtain these from trained specialist staff in specialist medical stores.
Treatment and prevention of venous disorders
Venous circulatory disorders and venous issues during pregnancy must be taken seriously! Every pregnant woman with such complaints should consult her treating gynaecologist. If necessary, he or she can refer you to a vein medicine specialist (phlebologist).
What can help with varicose veins, spider veins and oedema during pregnancy?
The basic treatment is medical compression therapy. Medical compression stockings, for example, from medi, exert mechanical pressure on the tissue and, in combination with movement, support the function of the calf muscle pump. This allows the venous valves to close again more effectively, thus improving the flow of blood through the veins and back to the heart. Complaints such as swollen feet and aching legs during pregnancy are relieved. Medical compression stockings are available in a wide variety and can barely be distinguished from “normal” stockings and tights.
Additional everyday tips for healthy veins during pregnancy
The following additional steps are suitable for preventing vein problems during pregnancy:
- Getting enough exercise
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Raising and resting your legs
- Wearing comfortable shoes
- Cooling your legs
With these tips and the medical compression stockings prescribed by the doctor, expectant mothers can themselves do a lot to prevent vein problems and alleviate acute complaints.
Clinical studies confirm: Medical compression stockings relieve typical complaints during pregnancy
- An improvement in the veins’ pumping function4,5
- A significant reduction in complaints such as pain, swelling and a sense of heaviness in the legs6
- A positive effect on orthostatic complaints7
- Significant relief from nausea, vomiting and dizziness8
More about symptoms, causes and treatment of venous disease
How to support your back, abdomen and veins during pregnancy
Fit and active during pregnancy
1 Mendoza, E.: Kompression in der Schwangerschaft lindert Beschwerden. Ars medici 2013;19:965-966.
2 Berufsverband Deutscher Internisten e.V.: Herz/Kreislauf & Schwangerschaft. URL: www.internisten-im-netz.de/fachgebiete/herz-kreislauf/herzkreislauf-schwangerschaft.html (25.08.2020).
3 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Phlebologie e.V.: Besenreiser. URL: www.phlebology.de/patienten/venenkrankheiten/besenreiser/ (03.09.2020).
4 Rabe E et al. S2k-Leitlinie: Medizinische Kompressionstherapie der Extremitäten mit Medizinischem Kompressionsstrumpf (MKS); Phlebologischem Kompressionsverband (PKV) und Medizinischen Adaptiven Kompressionssystemen (MAK). Stand 12/2018.Online veröffentlich unter: https://www.awmf.org/leitlinien/detail/ll/037-005.html (Letzter Zugriff: 20.07.2020).
5 Büchtemann AS et al. The effect of compression therapy on venous haemodynamics in pregnant women. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 1999;106(6):563–569.
6 Saliba Júnior OA et al. Graduated compression stockings effects on chronic venous disease signs and symptoms during pregnancy. Phlebology 2020;35(1):46–55.
7 Austrell C et al. Maternal and Fetal Haemodynamics during late pregnancy: Compression hosiery treatment. Phlebology 1993;8:155֪–157.
8 Mendoza E, Amsler F. A randomized crossover trial on the effect of compression stockings on nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Int J Womens Health 2017;9:89-99.