Pregnancy Problems

Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

Ugh. Those swollen veins are so annoying. Find out what to do if you get varicose veins during pregnancy and how to prevent them.

What are varicose veins?

Veins carry blood from your organs back to your heart, which means they're basically working against gravity. This ain't easy, especially in a pregnant lady. That’s because, thanks to your expanding uterus, increasing blood volume and changing hormones, your veins are under even more pressure than usual right now. And in the spots under the most pressure (usually your legs, but sometimes your rectum and vulva), blood can accumulate, which results in swollen — varicose — veins.

What are the signs of varicose veins?

You’ll notice veins are visibly dark purple or blue and are twisted and enlarged. Sometimes your legs might ache or feel heavy. Varicose veins may also cause your legs to swell and itch. The pain normally occurs if you’re sitting or standing for a long time — so make sure you change positions often.

Are there any tests for varicose veins?

They’re recognizable by appearance. Sometimes your doctor may perform a duplex ultrasound to check the blood flow to your veins (to make sure you don’t have a blood clot).

How common are varicose veins?

They’re pretty common during pregnancy because of all that extra blood in your body and pressure on your veins.

How did I get varicose veins?

Blame it on the crazy changes in your body like increased blood flow and weight gain.

How will varicose veins affect my baby?

Luckily, they won’t affect baby, even though they’ll probably annoy you! But don’t worry — they’re mostly harmless and tend to disappear three months to a year after delivery (see next page for treatments).

What’s the best way to treat varicose veins during pregnancy?

To improve circulation, prop up your legs whenever possible, exercise, avoid tight clothes and shoes, get lots of vitamin C and try not to gain more weight than your doctor recommends. Compression hose can also help, as can sleeping on your left side (so your uterus doesn’t press on the vena cava, a major vein on your right side).

What can I do to prevent varicose veins?

To prevent varicose veins — or at least keep them under control — try to keep excess pressure from building up, especially in your legs.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have varicose veins?

“I have them on my right leg from my vulva to calf. It’s not pretty up there, and it hurts to be on my feet for too long. Plus, they don’t help with keeping my blood pressure low these days. They do go away pain-wise after delivery.”

"Now I have varicose and spider veins in both legs, but one leg is much worse than the other. I know it’s common in pregnancy, but I feel like they get worse by the day, if that’s even possible. They look so awful and hurt badly too.”

"I’ve had one varicose vein for years. I didn’t get any more when I was pregnant with DS, but in this pregnancy, I already have two. I’m not overweight at all, my blood pressure is consistently very low, and I do have a leg-crossing problem. Mine are pretty puffy and very short.”

Are there any other resources for varicose veins?

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health

Plus more from The Bump:

Why am I getting leg cramps? 

I’m Having Trouble Sleeping 

Ways to Avoid Swollen Feet and Ankles 

By Paula Kashtan and Sarah Yang