If you're expecting, you know that pregnancy is a time of physical turmoil. While you may be ecstatic about the pending arrival of your bundle of joy, for nine months, your body is in overdrive as it goes through incredible changes to accommodate the growing life you carry. For the duration, you comply with every bodily need by guzzling water, taking naps, and rubbing creams on your tummy. But you might need to add one more item of concern to the list: veins.
What do veins have to do with a healthy pregnancy? A lot! From nose to toes, your veins play a part in maintaining good circulation in the process that ultimately provides oxygen to your extremities and your unborn child. If something were to obstruct your blood flow, serious complications could arise for you and your baby.
Why Am I at Risk?
Women in general are more susceptible to vein problems than men, but a pregnant woman's risk is increased dramatically. According to Dr. Jose Almeida, MD, diplomat of the American Board of Surgery, this risk can be attributed to several theories regarding the appearance of varicose veins in pregnant women.
- More Blood: An increase in the amount of blood circulating in a woman's body makes varicose veins more prone to happen.
- More Hormones: "Increases in progesterone production during pregnancy are thought to contribute to weakening the vein wall and subsequent bulging varicose veins," says Dr. Almeida. Veins become more elastic when hormones increase, causing the walls to dilate.
- More Pressure: With a growing baby pressing onto the pelvis, a large vein called the vena cava is compressed and can cause blood to pool in the legs. The more your baby grows, the more the problem of restricted blood flow out of the legs becomes an issue.
Hereditary factors also play a role in a woman's risk of developing varicose veins, says Dr. Robert Min, MD, interventional radiologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. If you're genetically predisposed, pregnancy "is probably the most common cause leading to worsening of veins," he explains.