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?