(NEW YORK) -- While women generally hope not to develop this issue, many women do first develop varicose veins during pregnancy. As the uterus grows, it puts pressure on the large inferior vena cava vein on the right side of the body. In turn, this increases pressure in the leg veins and creates the unsightly spider-like pattern of varicose veins. Hormones exacerbate the problem as well.
“Most of the time, elevating your feet or legs and/or wearing compression knee-high stockings or full-length stockings can offer a great deal of relief,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News senior medical contributor and a practicing OB-GYN. “Occasionally, varicose veins can become severe and very painful, requiring treatment from a vascular surgeon.”
One fact about varicose veins: The same process that causes them is also responsible for causing hemorrhoids. But, Ashton said, this does not mean that if you have one, you will also have the other.
WhatToExpect.com says that preventing varicose veins "isn't a perfect science," but offers these tips for what to do about this troublesome side effect of pregnancy:
- Keep the blood circulating. Get off your feet whenever you can, and keep your legs elevated when sitting. When standing, put one foot on a low stool and alternate legs. Flex your ankles every so often, and break the habit of sitting with your legs crossed (this strategy will also help keep spider veins at bay).
- Exercise is key in preventing varicose veins. Take a walk (or even better still, several walks) each day, or do some other form of low-key, circulation-increasing exercises.
- Make sure you wear clothes — including underwear — that fit well and don't bind, especially around the tops of your legs. Don't wear tight belts or socks with tight elastic tops, and stay away from tight-fitting shoes and stiletto heels (as if you could balance in them anyway).
- One kind of tight that's helpful though: support hose, which can counteract the downward pressure of your belly and give the veins in your legs a little extra upward push. Put them on before you get out of bed in the morning to prevent the blood from pooling. (Okay, not your sexiest pregnancy moment!)
- Keep your weight gain during pregnancy down to what your practitioner recommends. Extra poundage only increases the demands on your already-overworked circulatory system.
- Sleep on your left side to avoid pressure on your main blood vessels, and keep circulation going strong.
- Don't strain. Heavy lifting or straining on the toilet can add to vein visibility.
- Get your daily dose of vitamin C from your balanced diet, which keeps veins healthy.
- If the veins don't go away after the baby has arrived, you can think about having them medically treated or surgically removed then — but not during pregnancy.
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