Varicose veins are caused by poor blood flow. Blood pools in the veins and forms bulges under the surface of your skin. The most common locations are the legs, genitals and rectum (hemorrhoids). They may cause some irritation and discomfort, but they usually go away after childbirth.
The term varicose comes from the Latin word “varix,” which means twisted. Varicose veins look like winding, lumpy ropes under your skin. They are relatively common during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester.
The most common locations for varicose veins during pregnancy are the legs, ankles and external genital area (vulva). Hemorrhoids, which are varicose veins that occur in your rectum or around your anus, are also common during pregnancy.
Spider veins can occur along with varicose veins. These are fine blue or red lines that you can see through your skin but are not lumpy.
Veins are part of your circulatory system and carry blood from your body to your heart. Valves inside your veins help keep blood flowing in the right direction.
If the walls and valves of your veins become weak, blood can back up and form pools in your veins. These areas can swell and raise up from the surface of your skin.
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You may not experience any symptoms. If you do, you may find that they are worse when you sitting or standing for a long time.
During pregnancy, hormone changes and the weight of your growing baby make you more susceptible to varicose veins. This is due to:
All of these forces make it more difficult for blood to travel against gravity from your legs to your heart.
Constipation is also common in pregnancy and can cause hemorrhoids.
Other factors may increase your risk of developing varicose veins during pregnancy. These include:
Your healthcare provider will examine your legs, genitals and rectal area, depending on your symptoms.
If your symptoms are severe, your provider may recommend a Doppler ultrasound to measure blood flow in your surface and deep veins. Varicose veins can be associated with an increased risk of a blood clot in a deep vein (deep vein thrombosis). This condition can lead to serious complications, including a pulmonary embolism.
Since varicose veins are usually harmless and get better after you have your baby, healthcare providers usually don’t treat them.
Still, you can take steps that can help relieve your symptoms or prevent them from getting worse:
Similarly, hemorrhoids are usually harmless and may get better after you have your baby.
To relieve the discomfort of your hemorrhoids, you can:
If you are pregnant, you can help prevent varicose veins by improving blood circulation. For example:
Yes, they are usually temporary and shrink after your baby is born. However, if you have multiple children, they may get worse with each pregnancy or be less likely to go away.
Most of the time, varicose veins are not serious. Signs that you should call your provider include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Varicose veins are common during pregnancy and usually not harmful to you or your baby. They are one of the ways your body responds to the growing baby inside you. Rest assured, they will likely go away after childbirth. If you are experiencing discomfort or other symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider. Your provider can help you manage your symptoms as you await the arrival of your baby.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/25/2022.
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