COMMON CONCERN: Varicose Veins

What happens?

Varicose veins are swollen, enlarged veins, common in pregnancy and arise just under the surface of the skin. They occur predominantly in the legs and in most cases are harmless which improve soon after birth when the pressure in them is released.

Veins carry flowing blood in one direction back up to the heart. To keep flow one directional, they have small valves preventing any backflow. When these valves become weak, blood can pool and collect around them. In turn, the pooling widens and stretches the vein walls putting them under increased pressure. This pressure can force them to leak slightly.

The valve and vein wall weakening are thought to be because of increased blood volume in the mother, so the veins must stretch to accommodate this. Hormones are also thought to cause the walls to relax.

What can you do?

The legs can feel achy and heavy and the skin itchy and dry. Self-management includes regular exercise, elevation of the legs on rest and consideration to the use compression stockings when needed. Stockings will not prevent varicose veins but play a supportive role to the circulation. A pharmacist would be able to measure and fit an appropriate size.

What next?

As mentioned, varicose veins are generally harmless but seek advice from your GP if they become painful. the skin over the vein becomes affected or you’re otherwise concerned.