How does pregnancy affect varicose veins?
There are physiologic changes such as increased blood volume during pregnancy and the mechanical effect of the ever enlarging uterus on the large veins in the retroperitoneum, that is, in the area behind the abdominal cavity where the uterus lies. This contributes to venous reflux of blood into the legs veins.
What is also recognized is the hormonal changes on the veins themselves. The three main hormones are estrogen, progesterone and relaxin:
1. High estrogen levels increase the capacitance of veins, that is their ability to hold more blood.
2. High progesterone levels weaken vein walls and make them more likely to become varicose.
3. High relaxin levels cause vasodilation and venodilation - increasing the vein wall diameter by realxing the smooth muscle cells in the vein wall.
So, wear compression stockings during pregnancy -- knee high during the first trimester and waist high in the second and third trimesters. Consult your OB physician for more details and a prescription to get these stockings and do not self treat.