The miracle of pregnancy and childbirth is a time of great change for both mother and baby, and one of the fundamental and necessary changes is to the mother’s blood flow. With the demands of two bodies, this source of nutrient distribution is crucial.
The physical changes to the mother’s body can also impact blood movement. Frequently, the venous system suffers the effects of an expanding uterus around the growing child. While changes to your veins are common, they’re usually temporary. Here’s what you should know about vein health through pregnancy, what to expect, and how to cope.
When you encounter vein problems, visit Dr. Clement Banda and the team at MD Vein & Skin Specialists in Columbia, Maryland. We can help you through the effects of pregnancy-related vein conditions to help you stay comfortable through this exciting time.
One of the most common vein issues during pregnancy is varicose veins. About half of all pregnant women will encounter varicose veins, enlarged veins in the legs, just under the skin. They can be unsightly and sometimes painful, but they’re usually temporary, clearing up after childbirth.
Blood volume increases up to 20%, adding strain to your vascular system. Hormonal changes relax ligaments to accommodate your growing baby. These also affect vein walls, making blood flow back to the heart more difficult, particularly in your legs, where the flow works against gravity during your waking hours.
As your uterus expands throughout your pregnancy, it can place pressure on the inferior vena cava, a large vein that carries blood from your legs back to the heart. Restriction from this pressure adds even more resistance to the blood in your lower extremities.
You can help relieve some pressure on your veins by taking frequent breaks with your legs raised. Stay mobile and perform any low-impact exercise your obstetrician approves. Don’t cross your legs when sitting. The pumping of blood up your legs receives a boost from your muscles when you’re walking, so add motion after sitting or standing.
Maternity support hose compress leg muscles and veins. They offer the most compression at the ankles, while gradually reducing pressure up the legs. Avoid tight socks or legwear that cut off circulation.
The inferior vena cava routes through the right side of your body, so sleeping on your left side can take pressure off the vein. Pregnancy-related varicose veins often disappear in the months after you give birth.
Tiny blood vessels near the skin’s surface can also suffer from increased venous pressure. Called spider nevi or spider veins, these usually produce fine red lines. Sometimes your skin is itchy in the area, but usually they are just an appearance problem that clears up after childbirth.
Visible veins on your breasts and abdomen may appear as early as the first trimester. These occur for a few of the same reasons as varicose veins, but they’re usually not as pronounced or bulging. These veins will also disappear after childbirth, though they may remain visible while you’re breastfeeding.
Generally, you won’t need medical attention for these changes to your vein health. However, if your veins feel painful, firm, or warm with red skin discoloration in the area, it's a good idea to seek treatment. The experts at MD Vein & Skin Specialists stand by to help you. Call or click to schedule an appointment with us when the need arises.