Varicose Veins during Pregnancy
When you are pregnant and you are suffering from varicose veins, they are generally harmless in the short term. They may itch or hurt and they can be unsightly but if treatment is needed, it can usually wait until after the pregnancy.
A small percentage of those with varicose veins, develop small blood clots in the veins near the skin surface. This condition is known as superficial venous thrombosis. If this happens, the vein may feel hard and rope-like and the area around it may be red, hot, tender or painful. Although in most cases, these clots are not serious, it is still wise to tell your doctor or midwife so that they can monitor them and check that they do not become very swollen, develop sores or that the skin near the veins changes color. Occasionally an infection can occur accompanied by a fever and this would need a course of anti-biotics.
A more serious condition is called deep venous thrombosis or DVT where clots occur in the deep veins in the legs. Pregnancy makes you more susceptible to this condition but it is not common. With DVT there might be no symptoms at all or you could experience sudden, painful swelling in the ankle, leg or thigh with a fever. Such a clot would need hospitalization and medication to thin the blood as left untreated, the clot could break away and travel to the lungs causing a dangerous condition called a pulmonary embolism. The signs of this pulmonary embolism are shortness of breath, painful breathing, a cough (including coughing up blood), a feeling of panic as well as a rapid heartbeat. You would need immediate emergency treatment.
Varicose veins often improve within 3 months of giving birth and during this time, it is a good idea to keep up with wearing support hose, exercising regularly, elevating your legs and avoiding standing or sitting for too long. However, if your veins do not improve, become too uncomfortable or look unsightly then speak to your doctor about the treatment options available.
Treatment for Pregnancy Varicose Veins:
• Sclerotherapy – the most common varicose vein treatment where a solution is injected into the vein causing the vein walls to swell, stick together and seal shut. This prevents the flow of blood and the vein turns into scar tissue, fading after a few weeks.
• Laser surgery – where very strong bursts of light are sent onto the vein. The vein slowly fades and disappears. This treatment is only suitable for spider veins smaller that 3 mm.
• Endovenous Techniques – this is also laser but can be used on the larger and deeper veins. The doctor puts a very small catheter into the vein which sends out laser energy that shrinks and seals the vein wall. Healthy veins around the closed vein restore the normal blood flow.
• Surgical ligation and stripping – where problematic veins are tied shut and completely removed from the leg. This surgery requires either local or general anesthesia and is done in an operating room.
• Ambulatory Phlebectomy – where a special light source marks the location of the vein and tiny cuts are made in the skin and surgical hooks pull the vein out of the leg. A local or general anesthetic is required.
• Endoscopic vein surgery – where a small video camera is used to see inside the veins which are then removed through small cuts. This also requires a local or general anesthetic.
As you can see, there are several treatment options available and you would need to discuss with your doctor which would be the most suitable for you.