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Varicose veins popping up? Here's how to deal

Pregnancy has its perks—spreading the news, feeling the first kick, getting to name another human being. But there are also discomforts and downsides. And one is varicose veins.  

They typically show up on your legs, where they can cause sore, itchy blue bulges. But they can also manifest as hemorrhoids. The good news is that while they're not pretty, they're usually pretty harmless. 

Plus, varicose veins typically shrink within three months to a year after delivery. In the meantime, there are some steps you can take to ease their swelling and soreness.

What causes them? 

During pregnancy, your blood volume increases dramatically. This makes veins swell. At the same time, the weight of your growing womb can slow the flow of blood from your lower body to your heart. Both changes contribute to varicose veins. 

You're more likely to have them if this is your first pregnancy, and they also tend to run in families. 

What helps? 

These six tips can help you minimize varicose veins that may pop up during pregnancy: 

1. Go easy on sitting and standing. Try to avoid long stretches of either. And when you do sit, don't cross your legs. Put your feet up. 

2. Do something active every day. But ask your provider what exercise is safe for you. 

3. Pamper your legs. Put an ice pack on them when they're swollen, and prop them up whenever possible—on a chair, couch or, when you're lying down, a pillow. 

4. Sleep on your left side. This takes pressure off the vein that returns blood from the lower parts of your body to your heart. 

5. Cinch it. Wear compression stockings or leggings for better circulation. But stay away from socks or stockings with a tight band of elastic around the legs. They can cut off circulation. 

6. Be shoe smart. Choose a flat shoe or one with a lower heel—they work your calf muscles, which improves circulation. And steer clear of high heels. 

When should I get help? 

Be sure to call your provider if: 

  • Your veins swell suddenly—or if they become warm, tender or start to bleed.
  • You have a rash on your leg or ankle. 
  • The skin on your leg changes color or thickens.

More pregnancy news

Varicose veins aren't the only symptom you may be feeling. If you're having heartburn, tame it with these tips

Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American Pregnancy Association; March of Dimes; Office on Women's Health

Reviewed 3/2/2021

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