When you found out you had a baby in there, you expected your belly to grow, but why is it that nobody told you about varicose veins during pregnancy? Up to 55 percent of women are affected by vein issues, including varicose veins which can often be triggered by pregnancy. Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Yan Katsnelson sheds some light on how to prevent getting varicose veins during pregnancy, and if you do, how to deal in a natural way.

What causes varicose veins?

Many women first develop varicose veins–or find that they get worse–during pregnancy. As your uterus grows, it puts pressure on the large vein on the right side of your body (the inferior vena cava), which in turn increases pressure in the veins in your leg.

Veins are the blood vessels that return blood from your extremities to your heart, so blood in your leg veins already works against gravity. When you’re pregnant, the amount of blood in your body increases, adding to the burden on your veins. In addition, your progesterone levels rise, causing the walls of your blood vessels to relax.

Genetics also play a role; it’s estimated that about half of people who have varicose veins have a family member who also has them.

What pregnant women can do to prevent varicose veins?

One of the best ways to prevent varicose veins is to wear compression socks, which helps to promote blood flow through your veins, preventing blood from pooling. It is also important to continue to exercise throughout your pregnancy. Something as simple as walking for 20 minutes each day can help keep your veins healthy. It is also important that you avoid wearing tight clothing and high heels. Make sure to leave the heavy lifting to someone else in your family during your pregnancy as well.

Are there any particular diets or exercises women can do to prevent varicose veins?

Eating a healthy, balanced diet comprised of whole grains, vegetables and fruits is important. In addition, make sure you get enough vitamin C in your diet as it helps to promote blood flow. Elevating your legs throughout the day is an easy way to keep your blood flowing and a key way to prevent varicose veins from forming. Low-impact exercises, such as walking, cycling and swimming, also help to prevent varicose veins.

What should women do if they develop varicose veins during pregnancy?

If you do develop varicose veins during pregnancy, don’t be alarmed. Invest in compression socks to help promote blood flow, which can make sure your varicose veins do not worsen. In addition, make sure you eat a balanced diet, engage in low-impact exercises and elevate your legs.

Is it possible for them to go away naturally?

Most of the time, the appearance of your varicose veins will improve a few months after pregnancy. However, varicose veins will not completely disappear on their own. Compression socks will help reduce pain and swelling, which can visibly reduce their appearance as well. Treatment for varicose veins is the only option that will completely cure the disease and decrease chances of complications of blood pooling in the legs.

What kind of treatments are available?

Due to technological advances, you can treat varicose veins without having to undergo surgery. Endovenous laser therapy is a non-surgical treatment that helps to permanently eliminate varicose veins. The procedure, which usually takes about 15 minutes from start to finish, uses laser energy to heat and close the veins that are not working properly. Other healthy veins naturally take over to promote healthy blood flow in the leg.

Are varicose veins harmful to a pregnant woman?

Varicose veins can lead to discomfort, such as swelling and an aching pain. Most of the time, they are not harmful. However, if you do not treat them, they can lead to serious health issues like skin ulcers and the development of blood clots.