Capitol Vein Blog

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Varicose Veins and Pregnancy - Postpartum Phlebitis

Varicose veins and leg swelling are commonly associated with pregnancy. Many of our patients remark: "These veins showed up after my third child," or "I blame this problem on my kids!"

It's true. Increased blood volume, hormonal changes and weight on the pelvis from the growing uterus all influence the formation of varicose veins. These factors come together to increase pressure in the lower extremity veins and cause failure of the one-way valves that normally regulate the pressure in leg veins.

Vein issues may arise after pregnancy as well. One of our recent Bethesda patients came to us three months postpartum and was diagnosed with phlebitis, a painful, unsightly blood clot in a superficial vein. Blood can pool in the dilated veins that result from pregnancy, increasing the risk of blood clots in those locations.

Compression therapy during pregnancy and through the postpartum period, when the veins will eventually regress, is important in preventing blood clots. Once the baby is delivered and the patient's schedule permits, evaluation and correction of problem veins will eliminate the varicose veins and prevent further risk of clotting, pain, leg swelling and discoloration.

Patients of childbearing age who have varicose veins should be evaluated and treated, if possible, before getting pregnant. It is not true that women should "wait until after they've completed their family" to have varicose veins treated. Likewise, it is not true that "patients with bad varicose veins should not risk another pregnancy." In both cases, prompt evaluation and treatment will eliminate vein problems as factors in family planning decisions.

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