The appearance of varicose veins on the legs isn’t not confined to the elderly. On the contrary, these unsightly veins are very common in pregnant women.

Varicose veins are a common affliction of pregnancy due to the fact that the growing foetus, the placenta and the womb, put pressure on the veins in the pelvis. During pregnancy, a greater amount of blood circulates around the body, accompanied by the pregnancy hormone progesterone, which relaxes the walls of the blood vessels.

Such changes make an expectant mother prone to varicose veins, particularly in latter stages of the pregnancy.

Whilst varicose veins are common in pregnancy, there are certain steps you can take to help delay the veins from forming or lessen the severity of the condition.

Keep mobile

It is important to keep mobile throughout your pregnancy, as sitting for long periods can cause the blood to pool in the veins of the legs. This can increase the pressure within the veins, which can, in turn, stretch.

Simply walking around and circling each foot regularly through the day can keep the blood circulating around the body and help delay varicose veins from developing or from getting worse during pregnancy.

Elevate the legs

Pregnant ladies should enjoy putting their feet up to help them relax and unwind. Raising the feet by using pillows in bed or a footstool can also help prevent blood from pooling in the legs. It can be a good idea for pregnant women to sleep with their legs slightly elevated under pillows to help delay or prevent the onset of varicose veins.

Eat healthily to avoid putting on surplus weight

Naturally, pregnant women experience weight gain, which increases the pressure on the veins. Weight gain in pregnancy is unavoidable but excessive weight gain can make expectant mums more prone to varicose veins. Putting on surplus weight in pregnancy can help be avoided by eating healthily and carrying out gentle forms of exercise, such as swimming and walking.

If you are worried about varicose veins during pregnancy, you may want to speak to a varicose veins and vein health specialist. Get in touch with the Vascular Consultancy, experts in the treatment of varicose veins and other vascular conditions, to discuss varicose veins during pregnancy.






Daryll Baker  is a Consultant Vascular Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital in North London, but he also see patients privately at the Wellington Hospital Spire Bushey and the BMI Hendon Hospitals

He can be contacted via email  or through his secretary on 02077227370

Varicose veins are those bluish-purple lumpy marks on the legs of more than half of us.  Not only are they unsightly, but can also be the cause of the heavy aching discomfort you get when you stand for any length of time, they can itch and throb and cause cramps at night.  Occasionally they also lead to more serious medical problems including leg ulcers and hard brown skin at the ankle, and blood clots.

There are different types of veins. Most people, in particular ladies, have fine “thread” or capillary veins, its just the amount that varies. These don’t stand out, but look like a  matting or purple pen marks. Although unsightly in the summer these are rarely associated with other medical problems. Several people have varicose veins which protrud out when they stand up. These are “trunk” veins and affect both ladies and men andcan lead to the other symptoms.

As there are new treatments coming on line all the time, if you have any worries that you may have varicose veins or their complications, you really should see an expert  vascular surgeon.

When you do, the doctor  will take a history and examine your legs. Usually an ultrasound scan of the veins is performed to highlight the underlying vein problem. Occasionally if the veins are suspected to be coming from the pelvis, which can happen after pregnancies,  an MRI is undertaken. Based on this the best treatment for you and your legs will be discussed with you before any intervention is decided.

For the thread veins it is usually possible to undergo “microsclerotherapy”. This is when  a small amount of solution is injected into the vein through a fine needle in the consulting rooms to clear the vein. Over the next few weeks the body then absorbs the vein leaving the leg clear of marks. Often more than one course of injections are needed and people come back intermittently for “top up” treatments. If the veins are really fine  a skin laser machine is used to clear them.

It is now rare for “trunk” varicose veins to be “stripped” out and the  usual treatment is to pass a wire up the defective vein and heat the vein so it shrivels up. The heat is generated by a laser or high radiofrequency. At the same time the lumpy veins  are removed via a small incision over them.  The procedure is usually under local anaesthetic, sometimes with sedation, but rarely a full general anaesthetic. It is very much a day case procedure and you will usually be back to normal within a couple of days.

Sometimes it is necessary to use other techniques, especially if the surgery is for recurrent varicose veins. This includes injecting a foam of glue (sclerosant) into the veins. If varicose veins are involving the pelvis veins and the symptoms are  appropriate occasionally it is necessary to block off the non functioning veins in the pelvis as well. This is undertaken while you are  awake in a special vascular theatre when a small catheter is placed from the neck and a fine  “coil” of wires placed into the non functioning pelvic vein.

If the veins are associated with skin thickening, brown staining or leg ulcers at the ankle it is common to manage this by wearing support stockings as well as surgery. The stockings  can also be used if you don’t want surgery for your aching veins or when you are travelling on a long haul flight. It is best to wear the ones that come up to the knee, they come in lots of different colours, sizes and strengths, so you can pick the one you want and if you wear them for any length of time they need to be replaced regularly.

Often people have concerns that the veins will come back. To minimise this it is important that you and your specialist work out exactly what symptoms you have and assess the likelihood of success of treatment. Sometimes you may opt just to wear stockings for a short period, but the newer surgical techniques are very good and your surgeon will advice you.

Make sure the expert you see undertakes all procedures so you get the treatment suitable to you and not just what they have available.


Daryll Baker is a Consultant Vascular Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital London and Clinical Lead for North Central Region Vascular Services.

He read Medicine at Oxford University and trained in Vascular Surgery in Nottingham, London and Edinburgh. He obtained his research PhD from the University of Wales.


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