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varicose veins
3 Minutes

Varicose Veins in pregnancy? Some evidence-based solutions…

Pregnancy is not always glamorous. In fact, research shows that 30% of women will experience Varicose Veins at some point in their first pregnancy (1). This often rises in subsequent pregnancies. Spider veins and swelling are another common reality. We take a look at the drivers behind this and most importantly how you can tackle effectively. 

Why do we get varicose veins in pregnancy?

There does not appear to be a single definitive answer why some women get varicose veins during pregnancy and others do not. However, research (1) suggests that it is likely a combination of genetics, hormonal shifts and the fact that blood volume (hemodynamic factors) increases by as much as 30% during pregnancy. (2). 

Hormonal fluctuations and compression of veins in the lower abdomen can change the venous wall tone during pregnancy. This can = spider veins, varicose veins and/or swelling.

The good news is that typically these will disappear or at least reduce in size in the months following pregnancy. 

When should we be concerned/can we reduce the odds of persistent varicose veins? 

After six months (1) most minor vein dilations typically disappear. However for around 25% of women they can linger. This can also be an area of vulnerability for following pregnancies if left unchecked. If yours have persisted longer than six months postpartum then it is worth discussing with your doctor. 

What does research suggest we can do to minimise swelling, varicose veins and/or spider veins? 

The good news is research suggests there are solutions that will make a positive difference to swelling, varicose veins and spider veins. These can be done during pregnancy and postpartum. 

Compression: an effective tool during and after pregnancy against varicose veins and swelling: 

Research has shown that elastic compression of the legs is effective at controlling swelling and improving the tone of dilated or varicose veins. In fact ‘chronic compression may produce an improvement in vein wall function, reactivity and the dynamic tone of the veins restoring, at least partially the original tone.’ (1)

By compression: research suggests around 22mm HG at the ankle. (1) 

Many of us may think of the pretty unattractive surgical style stockings and shy away from this option. However, these days there are companies like MaryMarguerite who produce flattering comfortable leggings that offer firm compression (9-14mm HG). Click here for more. 

The good news is that as long as your bump is accommodated and left out of the compression (!) this is safe to do during pregnancy. 

Pycnogenol: an effective supplement?

Taking any form of supplement during pregnancy unless it has been cleared by your doctor is obviously NOT advisable. Click here for more on the need to know around supplements. However, this supplement for postpartum vein support is worth considering.

Pycnogenol is actually an extract from a French pine bark and a daily dose of 100mg has shown to be ‘very effective in acute models oedema.’ (1) Across several studies. It also has a robust safety profile. However, once again as with any supplement, it is imperative to ensure you consult your doctor before starting. 

Bottom line: the best way to tackle varicose veins during/post pregnancy: 

Some women will be impacted by this and there is not much that we can do. However, the good news is that research suggests you can reduce the severity and increase the chance that they disappear once your baby has arrived. Compression pre and post natal and/or taking Pycnogenol post baby have both shown very real results. If however yours are severe and persist it is worth a conversation with your doctor as there are options (laser/injections). This is particularly the case if yours persist longer than 6-12 months postpartum. 

References: 

  1. Belcaro G, Dugall M, Luzzi R: Postpartum Varicose Veins: Supplementation with Pycnogenol or Elastic Compression – a 12 month follow up: International Journal of Angiol 2017; 26:12-19

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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

 

 

 

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