Lifestyle

This mum opens up on some of the purple pains of pregnancy: varicose and spider veins

During both of this mum’s pregnancies, she had extremely noticeable varicose veins and incredibly painful legs that continued to get darker and darker. Her leg pain became so painful, even walking became too much.

Marley
Marley. Source: Supplied

Marley Reynolds, who is a Healthy Mummy community member, reveals her legs felt sore and looked bruised when she was pregnant with her first baby. However, once giving birth to baby number one, her symptoms diminished and her legs went back to normal.

But as soon as she found out she was pregnant with baby number two, her symptoms returned. However, this time much worse.

veins
Marley’s sore legs. Source: Supplied

“I started wearing full maternity compression stockings,” Marley, who is 20 weeks pregnant, tells us.

“My doctors said there isn’t much I can do, I saw a sports physiotherapist, who told me to start resting as much as possible with my feet above my heart.”

Marley was also advised to exercise in the pool rather than in the gym, and was also recommended to get a lymphatic drainage massage, which is a type of gentle massage that encourages the natural drainage of waste fluids away from the damaged area.

“The masseuse who I still see was so concerned about my leg condition as I was only just 16 weeks pregnant and suggested I see a lady who was highly trained in reflexology. After making an appointment with her she then decided she didn’t want to see me as it was to risky being pregnant,” says Marley.

“I’m currently still getting lymphatic drainage massages every couple of weeks, my partner lightly massages them every day to try boost the circulation, I walk in the water to help boost them and lay down with my feet up as much as I can.

“By the end of the day some days I can barely touch my legs, I’m also starting to get fluid around my ankles and my stockings cut into them.”

legs veins
Marley’s poor sore legs. Source: Supplied

Marley, you poor thing! We hope your symptoms ease soon. Take it easy.

Varicose veins, spider veins and swelling during pregnancy

A healthy pregnancy can often include a number of sometimes unpleasant conditions and pains. For example morning sickness, cramping, swelling and in general a feeling of being uncomfortable.

Veins carry deoxygenated blood back to our heart. The valves within the veins prevent blood travelling backwards. If the valves don’t close off properly the blood then pools, causing pocket like knobs in the vein. This is why varicose veins appear knobbly, twisted and dark in nature, says Healthy Mummy midwife Ali Pickles.

Woman with painful varicose and spider veins on her legs, applying compression bandage, self-helping herself. Vascular disease, varicose veins problems, painful unaesthetic medical condition concept.
Source: iStock

Ali says, “Varicose veins are essentially incompetent valves that allow blood to pool. They appear bluish in colour and are mostly found on the legs.

“Spider veins are similar to varicose veins but are smaller red-purple lines that appear in bunches mostly appearing on the face and legs. These are part of the venous system but are not essential in functioning.”

Treatments

Major options for treatment can include surgery (only on large varicose veins), says Ali. However Witch Hazel cream, herbs and supplements can also help ease pain.

“Witch Hazel cream has been reported to be effective in the treatment of spider veins and is also safe to use during pregnancy,” she reveals.

“Other alternative herbs and supplements can include: blueberries, strawberries, cherries, red grapes, rye, citrus, buckwheat, garlic, onions, chilli and ginger.”

Our Healthy Mummy Pregnancy Smoothie is loaded with vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate and iron. While not a treatment for varicose veins, it’s an easy way to fuel up on the essential nutrients your body needs during pregnancy.

You can our Pregnancy Smoothie factsheet here.

colourful pregnancy smoothie

For more information, click here.

What causes these issues?

“An exact cause for these unsightly veins is relatively unknown however there is a genetic link which is seen more commonly in women,” says Ali.

“As it is more commonly seen in women there is research that suggests that it could be hormone related. This theory is backed up by the increase seen during puberty, menopause, pregnancy and breastfeeding.”

Pregnant woman with swollen feet and leg pain.
Source: iStock

Other suggested causes include:

  • Standing for long periods.
  • Being bed bound.
  • Sitting for long periods (desk jobs).
  • Obesity.
  • Some medications such as the oral contraceptive pill.
  • Lack of exercise.

Side Effects:

  • Skin rashes around the localised area like eczema.
  • Blood clots (thrombophlebitis).
  • Skin ulcers.

Can they be prevented?

If you are genetically predisposed there are some suggestions to help minimise the unsightly veins such as:

  • Wearing compression/ support stockings.
  • Maintain a healthy weight range.
  • Regular exercise.
  • Wearing practical foot wear. Studies show shoes such as high heels allow blood to pool impeding the functioning of the veins.
  • An important bit of advice when preventing or making varicose veins and spider veins worse is to STOP crossing your legs! Most people do not have fat behind their knees so the veins are closer to the surface and are easily squashed when we cross our legs.

Swelling (Oedema)

Varicose Veins, Spider Veins & Swelling During Pregnancy
Source: iStock

Swelling in the ankles is also related in pregnancy to varicose veins as the pressure in the veins increasing causes it. As your baby grows it places more pressure on the veins in your groin decreasing their ability to pump blood back to your heart effectively, Ali reveals.

“It’s very common and relatively normal. Swelling isn’t restricted to your feet it can affect hands, face etc. If you are experiencing headaches, blood pressure problems and visual disturbances and sudden swelling from fluid, it’s best you get checked by your doctor as these symptoms collectively can be pre-Eclampsia,” she says.

“Pregnancy related fluid build up generally worsens as the day goes on especially if you have a job where you’re on your feet a lot of the day. If you are concerned about the swelling or it moves up your calves causing an indentation when pressed its’ best you speak with your doctor.”

Some swelling in pregnancy is unavoidable but tips to maintain a healthy pregnancy and decrease fluid include; eating a well balanced diet including lean proteins, beans and pulses. Decrease sugars and salts in the diet and drink plenty of water. Watercress, celery, apples, citrus and parsley are natural diuretics (assist you to pass water out of your cells/body).

“Whilst you’re pregnant elevating your legs to prevent fluid build up is recommended. It also helps your blood circulation helping the blood return back to the heart,” says Ali.

“So do yourself a favour and elevate your feet when you get home from work! Also massage is very effective in moving fluid, so ask your partner to massage your feet and calves or better yet, go get a pregnancy massage and treat yourself!”

For more information on varicose veins in pregnancy, click here.

Always speak to your doctor before changing your diet,taking any supplements or undertaking any exercise program in pregnancy.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is for reference only and is not medical advice and should not be treated as such, and is not intended in any way as a substitute for professional medical advice.

jennifer
written by:

Jennifer Hartnett

Jennifer is our Senior News Producer with a passion for trending news and lifestyle stories. Jennifer spends the rest of her time running around after her son Kian.