How pregnancy increases the risk for varicose veins
Varicose veins are a very common condition in the United States and affect about 25% of women. The process of valve failure is almost entirely hereditary. However, certain conditions such as hormonal changes and pregnancy can play a unique role in women of childbearing ages.
Pregnant women frequently develop new onset varicose veins as the pregnancy progresses. Not only does pregnancy increase the volume of blood in a woman’s body, but the enlarging womb also decreases the flow of blood traveling out of the legs. In addition, there is weight gain and a surge of hormones that contribute to weakening of the walls of the veins, allowing them to dilate more.
The majority of women who do develop varicosities of the leg veins will retain these veins after pregnancy. Multiple pregnancies are also associated with varicose veins. In fact, with multiple pregnancies, the varicosities always worsen in size, shape and symptoms.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent the development of varicose veins, but there are conservative measures that may lessen their symptoms and delay the worsening of existing varicose veins. If problems persist, you may want to seek treatment.
MARK SCHWARTZ MD FACS
The North Shore Vein Center