Many pregnancy benefits include glowing skin and thick, shiny hair. Unfortunately, there are also some less pleasant side effects, which often include feelings of heaviness and swelling in the legs.
Sometimes changes in the leg veins during pregnancy cause little discomfort. However, vein problems, such as aching legs and severe impairments, sometimes occur during pregnancy. If left untreated, these can develop into chronic venous diseases.
Eric Mai, MD, at STL Vein & Cosmetics in South County and Creve Coeur, Missouri, specializes in diagnosing and managing vein health. In this post, our team answers your questions about vein health during pregnancy and what you can do to prevent complications.
Hormones control pregnancy
Significant bodily changes occur during pregnancy. In addition to the obvious, other invisible but major changes occur within the body. These processes are all connected and necessary for pregnancy maintenance, fetus development, and the birth process.
Pregnancy hormones that circulate through the body in the bloodstream are responsible for triggering these essential changes that include the blood and blood vessels.
Blood vessels during pregnancy
With the onset of pregnancy, the placenta develops on the uterus wall, and new blood vessels develop in it. The placenta, connected to the circulatory system and the umbilical cord, provides nutrition and metabolism for the unborn child and protects it from harmful substances. The body also produces hormones that maintain pregnancy and later induce labor.
During this time, muscles and tendons become more elastic and pliable, and the joints become more flexible so that the child can grow and the mother's body is prepared for birth.
The connective tissue also changes and becomes looser, and your body stores fat as energy reserved for breastfeeding. Connective tissue absorbs, stores, and metabolizes more liquid from the blood vessels because there are important defense cells in the connective tissue.
During pregnancy, the body produces up to 50% more blood, which has to be transported through the blood vessels, including the veins. The composition of the blood also changes in that the proportion of blood plasma increases.
Because of the changed blood properties, the vein walls expand to absorb the larger amount of blood. They also become more permeable so that the metabolism in the connective tissue and the exchange of fluids between the blood vessels and the surrounding tissues can occur.
The leg veins are now doing extra work
Due to the higher volume of blood, the internal pressure on the vein walls, which are widened during pregnancy, increases. At the same time, the loosened connective tissue reduces the external pressure on the veins.
Legs and feet have to carry more weight, and the enlarging uterus impedes the backflow of blood from the leg veins. Under these conditions, healthy veins can also be impaired in their work.
When you stand or sit for a long time, the blood pools in your legs and vein walls, which are already dilated and overstretched. As a result, venous valves can no longer close, and blood congestion occurs. Your legs feel tired and heavy. In addition, more fluid escapes into the surrounding tissue and causes edema.
Preventing vein problems during pregnancy
If you don’t take preventive measures, the occasional complaints can develop into serious problems. Impeded blood circulation in the leg veins promotes the development of varicose veins and increases the risk of developing thrombosis.
The best way to prevent venous diseases is movement. Exercise is crucial while pregnant, so get involved in sports like swimming, cycling, dancing, or just walking. You can also enjoy your newly acquired flexibility with pregnancy exercises or yoga for pregnant women.
If you have more questions about preventing varicose veins or venous disease during pregnancy, call Dr. Mai and the STL Vein & Cosmetics specialists by phone or request an appointment online at your preferred location.