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Understanding the Different Types of Pregnancy-Related Vein Issues

 Understanding the Different Types of Pregnancy-Related Vein Issues

Pregnancy has been called “nature’s stress test” because of the increased demand and sustained strain it places on an expectant mother’s circulatory system. Though normal, this amplified demand is also a major risk factor for pregnancy-related vein dysfunction. 

Here, our experienced team at Vascular Vein Centers discusses the adverse vascular effects of pregnancy, explores five common pregnancy-related vein issues, and explains what you can do to safeguard your circulatory health.    

Pregnancy stresses your veins in multiple ways

Pregnancy comes with myriad physiological changes designed to meet an expectant mother’s increased metabolic needs, while supporting the growth of her developing fetus. Increased cardiovascular load is one of these fundamental changes.     

Starting in the first trimester and continuing to the end of the third trimester, this increased burden occurs through three specific body changes:  

Surging hormone levels

Pregnancy triggers the release of progesterone and relaxin, two hormones that help loosen your connective tissues, so your belly can expand as your baby grows. Unfortunately, relaxin relaxes blood vessel walls, too, and progesterone weakens the valves inside your veins that keep your blood flowing efficiently toward your heart.    

Increased blood volume

Just as your veins are becoming a bit weaker and more relaxed, they’re suddenly tasked with handling a much greater blood volume. Pregnancy expands your blood volume up to 20%, but your vascular network doesn’t expand in response to this extra volume. Instead, your veins must work harder — and under greater pressure.  

Large vein (IVC) pressure

Toward the end of the second trimester, your growing fetus puts ever-increasing pressure on the largest vein in your body: your inferior vena cava (IVC)

Located behind your uterus, the IVC is tasked with transporting blood from your legs and lower abdominal organs back to your heart. When it’s compressed by uterine weight — as it typically is by the third trimester — your lower extremity circulation can become sluggish.     

Five common pregnancy-related vein problems 

Pregnancy effectively sets the stage for vein dysfunction, particularly in the second and third trimesters, as increased blood volume and fetal weight place an ever-greater strain on weaker blood vessel walls and valves. 

 Against this backdrop, it isn’t surprising that pregnancy is a significant risk factor for the following vein problems: 

Varicose veins

Varicose veins develop when blood pools behind weak valves and exerts pressure on the surrounding vessel wall. Over time, this abnormal intravascular pressure causes the vein to distort, stretch, swell, twist, and bulge — or become varicose. One in two women develop varicose veins during pregnancy, usually in superficial (surface) leg veins.       

Spider veins 

Spider veins emerge when a network of smaller surface veins become varicose through the same mechanisms that make larger veins swell and contort. With their web-like appearance, these “milder” vein distortions may appear around a larger varicose vein, or occur on their own.  

Hemorrhoids 

Hemorrhoids are enlarged veins that develop around the anus or within the lower rectum. Much like varicose veins, hemorrhoids occur when increased pressure on a vessel causes it to stretch, bulge, or swell.   

Hemorrhoids affect up to one in three pregnant women. They can occur because of the same pregnancy-related changes that damage leg veins, or they may emerge during vaginal delivery, with the increased intra-abdominal pressure and strain of pushing.    

Vulvar varicosities 

About one in five pregnant women develops vulvar varicosities, or varicose veins on the outer part of their genitals. This typically mild vein problem rarely occurs during a first pregnancy, but becomes increasingly common in subsequent pregnancies.    

Deep vein thrombosis

Pregnancy increases your risk of developing a blood clot (thrombosis) in one of your deep veins. In fact, pregnant women are five times more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT) compared to people who aren’t pregnant. 

 DVT is more likely during pregnancy — and for up to three months post-delivery — because of reduced lower extremity circulation along with physiological changes that make blood clot more easily to lessen blood loss during delivery.   

Supporting vascular health through pregnancy 

The good news about pregnancy-related vein issues is that most of the time, they resolve by themselves within six weeks of delivery. You can also take steps to lower your risk of severe vein problems. Throughout your pregnancy and during the postnatal period, you should: 

Would you like to safeguard your vascular health during pregnancy? We can help. Call or click online to schedule an appointment at your nearest Vascular Vein Centers office in College Park of Orlando, Waterford Lakes of East Orlando, Kissimmee, Lake Mary, Davenport/Haines City, or The Villages, Florida, today.

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