Varicose Vein during Pregnancy
Effect of Pregnancy on the Venous System
During pregnancy, many hormonal changes occur in the body that has a profound effect on the veins. Blood volume increases between 40% to 50%, while increased amounts of progesterone cause the vein walls to dilate and become less elastic.
The pressure of the fetal head in the pelvis can compress the iliac veins and obstruct venous outflow from the legs. As the baby grows, the uterus enlarges and applies pressure on important veins that return blood to the heart. This pressure can cause a slowing of the blood flow and valve damage, resulting in swelling, leg discomfort, and even varicose veins. A pregnant woman’s feet and legs may start to swell after sitting or standing for only a short time. In principle, this is a completely normal symptom. However, if your feet are already swollen when you get up in the morning, consult your doctor. While these symptoms may subside after delivery, with each subsequent pregnancy, they are less likely to completely disappear.
Pregnant patients are encouraged to have an evaluation during pregnancy and treatment is encouraged after delivery.
Pregnancy and DVT
Women who are pregnant are at a high risk for the development of a Deep Vein Thrombosis, known as DVT. One reason is due to the increased blood volume at full term.
Additionally, pregnancy causes hormonal changes that increase blood coagulability, a measure of how easily blood clots. The expanding uterus puts pressure on blood vessels, restricting blood flow from the legs and pelvis back to the heart.
Slower blood flow increases the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis. The risk continues during the postpartum period until the woman’s hormonal levels return to their pre-pregnancy state.
Common Leg Health Problems During Pregnancy
Venous disorders and leg health problems are among the most frequent medical conditions in North America. You may experience these conditions for the first time during pregnancy. For example, swollen feet, tired aching legs and a feeling of heaviness in the legs are among everyday symptoms that pregnant women may experience.
These symptoms are especially frequent when:
• a history of varicose veins and venous disease exists in the family
• a venous condition was already present before the pregnancy
• The woman sits and stands for prolonged periods of time while pregnant
• The woman does not exercise regularly during the pregnancy, or
• The woman has had more than one pregnancy
Pregnancy plays a role in the development of varicose veins. 30% of women pregnant for the first time, and 55% of women who have had two or more full-term pregnancies develop varicose veins.
Ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging scan that uses sound waves to “see” inside your body. At the Vascular Institute of Virginia, we have an expert team of physicians, nurses, and technologists who are highly trained in ultrasound imaging.
Venous Duplex Ultrasound Scan
The purpose of a venous duplex ultrasound scan is to evaluate venous blood flow in the patient’s arms and/or legs. Patients may experience symptoms such as pain, swelling or varicose veins in the arms or legs. These scans can aid in the diagnosis of venous abnormalities such as a suspected blood clot in a deep vein of the leg (DVT); narrowing or closure (occlusion) of a vein; or impaired blood flow (venous insufficiency).
A Venous Doppler ultrasound study may be part of a venous duplex ultrasound examination. Doppler ultrasound is a special ultrasound technique that allows the physician to see and evaluate blood flow through arteries and veins in the abdomen, arms, legs, neck, or within various body organs such as the liver or kidneys.