Varicose Veins & Pregnancy

When I was pregnant with Caden my legs started to begin bothering me around 22 weeks. I first noticed something was different when I went for a run and had to stop and walk because my legs felt so heavy and were causing me pain each time I took a stride. At my next OB appointment I was referred to a vein specialist and learned that I had varicose veins.

Varicose veins are diseased blood vessels that have become permanently dilated (enlarged) and can no longer carry blood back to the heart efficiently. As the dilated veins begin to leak, oxygen-poor blood pools in the varicose veins and waste products accumulate in the legs. Untreated varicose veins can cause aching, heaviness and swelling, and can lead to blood clots and leg ulcers if left untreated.

Vein Anatomy

It was certainly not what I expected to hear. I was healthy, active, under the age of 30, and sitting only 10 pounds above my pre-pregancy weight. Instead what I had was a family history of bad veins. No amount of healthy living could out run bad genetics. I left that appointment with two pairs of compression socks, knee and thigh high, which I was not super thrilled to be wearing especially because the desert temps were beginning to rise.

Speaking of compression socks, my favorite brands are Juzo for everyday and CEP for exercising (this post is in no way sponsored by these companies I just love their products). All of my socks were prescribed by my doctor and insurance covered some of the cost of my Juzo socks. My CEP socks were not covered by insurance at all. These are the my go to socks…

Compression Socks

I was told to back off from running, continue to swim laps, and layoff any movement that would cause a direct downward force on my legs. My plan for the remainder of my first pregnancy was to wear my compression socks daily, swim as much as could, continue to practice yoga (check out Yoga for Varicose Veins on my YouTube channel), and avoid running. I still lifted weights and did cardio but used the stair climber and elliptical.

As my pregnancy progressed, the worse my legs became. I had dark bluish purple bruises that were very pronounced below my knees and on my inner calf. My legs became painful to the touch but I knew the more I could keep moving the better off I was.

After Caden was born I did notice a slight improvement in my legs but when my period returned months later the aching, throbbing, and pain returned full force. I made an appointment with my vein specialist to have the consultation for treatment. I knew I wouldn’t start therapy until I was done breastfeeding but I wanted to get everything booked for mid June after Caden’s first birthday.

Due to the severity of the vein reflux in my legs I needed to get treatment from my inner groin down to my ankles on both my right and left sides. I opted to get the treatments done back to back as quickly as our insurance would allow. The entire length of my treatment lasted 2 months, which wasn’t horrible, but I have to say wearing thigh high compression socks the entire summer was not something I enjoyed.

My treatment consisted of endovenous laser treatmentsclerotherapy, and compression socks. With endovenous laser treatment a slender catheter is inserted into the diseased vein through a tiny needle prick in the skin. Then, under ultrasound guidance, a laser fiber is positioned within the diseased vein. The energy of the laser causes the vein to close, rerouting the blood to the many healthy veins. The diseased vein becomes harmless fibrous tissue and is gradually absorbed by the body. Sclerotherapy uses ultrasound to locate the damaged, deeper veins that pressure the varicose veins on the surface. Once the root of the problem is identified, duplex ultrasound is used to accurately guide injections of a special medication into these leaking veins, causing them to safely collapse and close. The diseased veins dry up and are gradually absorbed through the body’s natural healing response.

Following each treatment I drove to the nearby Target to walk for 30 minutes. This was actually my favorite part of the treatment. I also had to wear my compression socks continuously for the first 24 hours after any treatment. Because I opted to get my treatments back to back I lived in my socks for the entire summer and could take them off only for swimming, showering, and sleeping.

Since Josh and I knew we wanted to get pregnant again fairly quickly after I was finished breastfeeding Caden it was important to have this treatment done ASAP. If I had not had treatment before becoming pregnant again I would have increased my risk of developing a blood clot. I want to be clear that I did not have this surgery done for cosmetic reasons. I could have lived with the bruising or discoloration in my skin but the amount of pain I was feeling hinder my ability to go for runs and even do certain exercises and yoga poses. Because the treatment was done for medical reasons it was covered 100% by our insurance. I highly encourage you to seek medical attention if you are dealing with leg pain due to varicose veins.

My treatment was completed by mid August and Josh and I became pregnant in September. Since becoming pregnant again my legs have started to swell, bruise with discoloration and become more painful. I can’t imagine how much more awful they would feel if I had not had treatment for the already diseased veins. This time around I have much more noticeable and pronounced bruising on both legs from the groin down. It looks pretty bad when I take off my compression socks each night.

Once this baby girl is born I will be back in for my last set of laser treatments. Josh told me several times before and after Caden was born that he didn’t want me to be in pain and it was totally fine with him if I didn’t want to be pregnant again. We are praying for a healthy baby and if everything goes smoothly I can safely say that this will be my last pregnancy. For my next set of treatments I will hopefully start within a few months of the baby being born. I am opting to pump and dump for 24 hours after each treatment instead of waiting until I am done breastfeeding.

While varicose veins aren’t the end of the world, they can be painful and hinder your ability to participate in the activities you enjoy. I wanted to share my experience to hopefully encourage and also make you aware that if you have a family history of diseased veins and become pregnant to make sure you have your doctor take a look.  You know your body better than anyone else and if something doesn’t feel right speak up. We all have to be our own health advocates.

I would love to hear from you: 

  • Do you have a family history of varicose veins?
  • Or have you had treatment done on your veins?

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Comments

  1. This is actually really good to know. I appreciate you telling your story – all the in’s and out’s. My husband and I are trying right now – so it’s just good to know! My grandmother has vericose baddddddd, I sincerely hope I don’t get it!

  2. Thank you for sharing! I had varicose veins with my first daughter and also did the compression tights in the summer deal. Now, only 12 weeks in to my second and I noticed terrible throbbing and pain behind my left knee, my husband checked and huuuuge vein bulging!! I almost started crying because its so early and I didn’t have the. Until around 20 weeks the first time. Does walking help? I don’t have access to machines or a pool right now but I need to do something!! Thank you for sharing about the treatments too. I never knew that insurance might cover them.

    • Oh you poor girl! You know exactly what I am talking about wearing compression socks in the summer. Yes movement does help and if you have your socks I would start wearing them now. Avoid sitting with your legs crossed or standing in one spot for long periods of the time too. Yoga is great, walking, Pilates, and no worries if you don’t have a pool. You can still keep your legs healthy without swimming. I would for sure get a recommendation for a specialist from your OB. There is not much that can be done now because you are already pregnant but you could still go meet with the doctor to see if there is anything else you could be doing and to find out what your insurance might cover.

  3. Joy Lechner says:

    Thanks for sharing. I am so sorry you have to deal with this! I didn’t have anything with my first son. This time around I have some spider veins. They are big patches of black/purple looking areas on just one leg. They don’t hurt, but I did try wearing a compression sock on this leg when I know I will be on my feet a lot. I don’t see a ton of difference whether I wear it or not, so I haven’t been wearing lately. My midwives didn’t seem to be worried at all, just said they may or may not go away after birth naturally. I wonder what causes the spider veins vs the varicose? I think I have one area that looks like a varicose want s to happen but has not been painful. Interestingly enough, this leg just started to feel achy yesterday but it doesn’t look any worse. It doesn’t feel heavy. But I am almost 38 weeks, so maybe that is why! Thanks again for sharing. If you have any info on the difference between spider and varicose, I would love your feedback.

    • Hi Joy, I am by no means an expert on this topic but from what I understand with each pregnancy the body has more chance of developing spider veins and varicose veins. Most of the time after the baby is born they will clear up without any medical intervention. During pregnancy the amount of blood pumping in our body dramatically increases which can sometimes create back pressure on the veins valve causing them to become damaged. This is what happens with varicose veins. With spider veins the venules (tiny veins) are simply enlarged. Spider veins should cause no more than a burning sensation. If leg aching, heaviness or swelling is present, it could be a sign of varicose veins. Hope this helps.

  4. Just to reassure others it is normal practice these days (in UK anyway) to carry out such treatment all on one day taking about an hour. Stockings then just for one week.
    It concerns me that when insurance is involved clinics can deliberately spin out treatment to charge higher fees.
    Regards
    David West
    Interventional Radiologist
    http://Www.veincentre.com

    • Hi Dr. West, Thanks for your comment! I agree with you 100%, it is so horrible that insurance will not allow for treatments to be done in a more timely manner. Especially when there is no medical reason for the treatments to be spaced so far apart. Honestly I think they do it to make it harder in part for the patient so they will give up and not pursue the treatment that is needed. I am thankful for not needing to pay for anything out of pocket but it is frustrating. My own doctor said the exact same thing about the insurance companies. He would have loved to treat me all at once but because of how my insurance is setup he couldn’t.

  5. Hi Tamara,
    Thank you for posting this! It was really helpful to see that someone else wrote about this and understands what varicose veins are all about especially at a younger age. People like you are hard to find! Congrats on your daughter on her way too! I searched the internet for women’s experiences being pregnant post varicose vein treatment and you’re the only person I could find. So about me… I am in my low 30s and have a family history of varicose veins. While I was pregnant with my daughter who was born in October 2012, my legs got so swollen, achy, and fatigued from my existing and worsening varicose veins and and the varicose veins and symptoms never got better after she was born. I was really uncomfortable. Thankfully, starting in January 2014, I underwent three EVLA treatments for my varicose veins (like you, more for the physical symptoms and less-so for cosmetic), along with sclerotherapy and wearing compression stockings. My legs are so much better already (woohoo!) though I have some bruising still…But I am worried about what they’ll be like when I get pregnant with #2 and if I get pregnant too soon after treatment, will I have allowed my legs enough time to heal? I am really hoping they’ll be much better since the doctor treated the source saphenous vein problem and they recommend treatment before another pregnancy. I saw that you got pregnant right after you stopped treatment. I would love to know even more about how your legs have been being pregnant post-treatment. I have a bunch of questions :):
    – How were your legs when you got pregnant?
    – How far into your pregnancy did you notice leg symptoms cropping up and how have your legs have been through your pregnancy thus far?
    – Are you wearing your compression stockings while pregnant?
    – How are your legs with the warmer Arizona weather? I’m in Chicago and will soon enter summer and thinking about swelling.
    – How do you know you already have to go back for more treatments after your daughter is born?
    Thanks so much in advance!!! Really appreciate any insight.

    • Hi Jamie, So sorry it has taken me a week to reply. Hopefully this will answer your questions. I had just finished my treatment when I became pregnant so my legs were still bruised from the laser therapy, but they did feel better. With this baby I began to notice my legs around 15 weeks getting more discolored and painful to touch. I have worn my compression socks faithfully this entire pregnancy and I do think that has helped. This time around my legs look much worse. No swelling so far and I am at 31 weeks :). The reason I know I will have to go back is because of my insurance I was not able to get anymore injections after the laser treatment to finish closing off the veins. I had to wait until December to go back and at that time I was pregnant. So one of the reasons my legs look worse this pregnancy is because there is still trapped blood in some of the vessels that were closed off. I am super thankful for insurance but sometimes it is really dumb how the billing system works. Hope this helps!

  6. I know this is old but it came up when I was searching! Did you get varicose veins on your next pregnancy? Did you find any good tights or leggings to wear? I’m pregnant with my second and am 26 weeks and have so bad veins developing on my groin and down one of my legs, so I’m looking for some good recommendations before things get worse. I really appreciate any and all advice!!!
    Jessica N recently posted…We’re having another BABY + Gender RevealMy Profile

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