Varicose veins during pregnancy are caused by blood volume increases that put pressure on the veins. Varicose veins are enlarged veins that commonly occur in the legs, although during pregnancy they can also appear on the buttocks and vaginal area. Hormonal changes can also lead to varicose veins during pregnancy as increased progestin levels can dilate or open the veins. In addition, during pregnancy the uterus puts pressure on the inferior vena cava (the vein that carries blood from the legs and feet to the heart), further contributing to varicose veins.
Varicose veins are generally harmless, although they may become itchy and uncomfortable. The good news is they typically diminish within three months to a year after giving birth.
How to Treat Varicose Veins Naturally During Pregnancy
While varicose veins can be hereditary, and you can’t prevent the circulatory changes that occur during pregnancy, there are some ways you can prevent or minimize varicose veins.
These preventative measures are ultimately your best treatment option during pregnancy:
- Avoid sitting or standing in the same position for long periods of time. Make sure to take breaks to change your position.
- Avoid wearing high heels. It is better to wear lower-heel or flat shoes as this works your calf muscles, fostering healthy circulation.
- Get regular exercise. Talk with your doctor to confirm if it is safe for you to exercise during pregnancy.
- Wear maternity support hosiery. These put pressure on the legs, stimulating blood flow up the leg towards the heart. However, avoid wearing tight hose that cut off circulation.
- Avoid crossing your legs while sitting.
- Elevate your legs periodically to improve circulation.
- Sleep on your left side. This will help relieve pressure on the inferior vena cava.
- Reduce sodium intake to minimize swelling of the veins.
- Drink plenty of water and eat enough fiber to prevent constipation.
Warning: Some have used horse chestnut seed extract (with the poisonous esculin removed) to treat varicose veins. However, consuming the raw bark, flower, seed, or leaf of this plant is poisonous and can cause death. The safety of using horse chestnut extract with the esculin removed during pregnancy remains unknown.
Therefore, it is best to avoid using it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
How to Treat Varicose Veins Naturally During Pregnancy When Naturally Does Not Work
Varicose vein surgery is not recommend during pregnancy as varicose veins generally improve after giving birth. Contact your doctor if the veins become swollen, warm, tender, or red, if they bleed, if you have a rash on your leg or ankle, or if the skin on leg changes color or thickens.
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Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Aetna Inc. (2015). Clinical policy bulletin: Varicose veins, Number 0050.
2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, January 31). Varicose veins.
3. MedlinePlus. (2014) Horse chestnut.
4. Murry, M. M. (2013, April 10. Varicose veins and pregnancy: Legs and more.
5. Nemours. (2013). Why do some pregnant women get varicose veins?
6. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). Varicose veins and spider veins fact sheet.