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Varicose veins are often looked at as cosmetic issues but the truth, especially during pregnancy, is that these veins can cause discomfort or even pain and can present self-esteem issues.
According to WebMD, varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins that become filled with increased amounts of blood. They are most often found in the leg or ankle, but in some cases can also occur in a woman's vulva, especially during the later stages of subsequent pregnancies.
Varicose veins are usually quite unattractive, as they are dark blue or purple, and have a swollen, twisted appearance under the skin. Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves and veins in one's legs.
Typically, the valves in one's legs restrict blood flow and only allow it to flow to one's heart. When the valves are not working correctly or are weakened, some blood is allowed to flow back away from the heart and pools in the lower legs, thereby enlarging the veins.
During pregnancy, the weight and size of the uterus can press on the inferior vena cava, a large vein on the right side of the body, which then increases pressure in the veins of the leg.
In addition, when a woman is pregnant, she has a higher than normal amount of blood in her body, creating a larger amount of blood flow for the veins to carry. The higher levels of progesterone, a known pregnancy hormone, also causes the blood vessels to relax and become enlarged.
Symptoms of varicose veins can vary, from no signs at all, to being very disruptive.
Some symptoms include:
1. Pain in one's legs that feels achy, heavy, painful or a burning sensation. After standing or sitting for long periods of time or at the end of the day these symptoms may worsen.
2. Unusual swelling in one's feet, ankles, and/or lower legs
3. Itchiness or throbbing, especially at the site of the enlarged vein
There is no cure for varicose veins though they do tend to improve after childbirth, especially if the woman did not have them prior to the pregnancy. There are also many medical options to remove these veins post-pregnancy.