Veins return blood to the heart from all parts of the body. The blood carried by veins is under much less pressure than blood in the arteries. Because of this, venous blood moves slowly and can sometimes pool up in certain veins. Those in the legs are particularly susceptible to the condition, because the blood must move against gravity in addition to already being under less pressure.
Veins contain small valves to keep the blood from backing up, but sometimes these weaken and begin to fail. In this case, blood pools significantly in an area of vein, enlarging and discoloring it, forming a varicose vein. Sometimes these are painless yet at other times they can ache or feel hot or itchy. In any case, though, few care for the way they look.
One of the risk factors for varicose veins is being overweight. Unfortunately that includes carrying the extra weight of a developing baby – even if the total weight is normal for any given point in the pregnancy. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? In particular, the growing uterus and baby inside it press upon the main vein carrying blood back from the legs, the inferior (lower) vena cava. This exacerbates the situation, but fortunately expectant moms can do plenty of things to prevent or minimize varicose veins.
For example, speaking of the vena cava, it can be helpful to sleep on one’s left side as much as possible. This is because it takes some weight off that major vein, which is located to the right of the body’s center. In theory, sleeping on one’s stomach can also help, except that this becomes essentially impossible as the baby grows. Even when not sleeping, it helps to raise one’s feet when sitting. So, if you don’t have one already, get a hold of and use a nice foot-stool for all it’s worth. An expectant mom is not only ‘eating for two,’ but also resting for two!
It’s also better to not cross one’s legs or ankles while sitting, as some smaller veins can be directly pressed upon by this. This isn’t normally a problem, except when doing everything one can to prevent or minimize varicose veins. And since this condition is basically a problem of circulation, anything one does to improve circulation is all to the good. Chief among these is getting some daily exercise – even if it’s just a good walk of twenty minutes or more each day. If you must sit or stand in one place for long periods, make a point to take regular breaks for moving around.
Wearing compression stockings or hosiery can help. Though pregnant women should eat heartily, it’s good for overall health as well as for varicose veins to try to limit weight gain to the doctor-recommended amounts. Of course, continued exercise after the baby arrives is also important. Taking at least a couple of daily walks will be enjoyable for both mom and baby in addition to being good for their health. If all else fails, get the doctor’s advice on the various treatment options for varicose veins. Help is there if and when it’s needed!
By Marc Castro