woman-1284353__180Most women are prepared for the usual side effects that accompany pregnancy, such as nausea, fatigue, and mood swings. But there’s another symptom not as commonly discussed—varicose veins.

Varicose veins are swollen blue or purple veins in the legs that bulge near the surface of the skin, and many women develop them during pregnancy. As the uterus grows, it increases pressure on the large vein known as the inferior vena cava on the right side of your body, which in turn increases pressure on the veins in the legs. In addition, the amount of blood in your body increases when you’re pregnant, adding to the burden on your veins. Changes in hormones such as progesterone and estrogen also affect your blood vessels.

Varicose veins form when the one-way valves in the leg veins become too weak or damaged to continue pushing blood up towards the heart. As the blood pools in the vein, it creates the ropy, blueish appearance. Sometimes varicose veins pose little or no discomfort, but for many they cause swelling, aching heaviness, or pain. The skin around a varicose vein may also itch, throb, or feel like it’s burning. The symptoms tend to be worse at the end of the day, especially if you’ve been on your feet a lot.

If you experience varicose veins during pregnancy, know that this is not something that will put you or your baby at risk. However, if you experience some problematic symptoms such as aching or swelling of the legs try these three tips to alleviate symptoms:

  1. Elevate your legs when possible, allowing your feet to rest in a position above your heart for 20-30 minutes three or more times a day. This helps blood flow more easily toward your heart, improving circulation in your legs.
  1. Wear low-grade compression stockings to promote circulation throughout the legs.
  1. Avoid sitting or standing for prolonged periods, as this will increases the added pressure already on your veins during pregnancy. If you must sit or stand for long periods, try to take frequent breaks to move your legs and increase blood flow.

The good news is that varicose veins tend to improve after you give birth, particularly if you didn’t have any before you got pregnant. And if they don’t get better, there are a variety of ways to treat them with in-office, minimally invasive laser treatments. If your varicose veins and corresponding symptoms do not subside within 6 weeks of pregnancy, talk with your physician about treatment for varicose veins.

There are many options for the treatment of diseased veins and your best option depends on the severity of your condition, your preference, and desired outcomes.

Premier Vein Clinics of Knoxville is offering free varicose vein screenings for qualified candidates through August, 2016, at our Premier Surgical Papermill location. So if you are suffering from pain or swelling in your legs, request an appointment for a free screening with one of the local board certified vascular surgeons at Premier Vein Clinics in Knoxville.