• 20 December 2018
  • Dr. Obinna Nwobi

Although you expect a lot of changes during pregnancy, problems with your veins may not be on your radar. But the fact is that pregnancy increases your risk for varicose veins. These unsightly and often painful veins often appear for the first time during pregnancy. If you already have vein problems, they typically worsen while you’re pregnant.

Here at Vein Health Clinics, we help pregnant women learn how to lower their risk for vein problems and provide customized care when varicose veins cause discomfort. Our goal is to help you thrive and stay healthy, so here’s a rundown on the reasons pregnancy leads to varicose veins and other vein problems.

How varicose veins develop

The veins in your legs carry blood back toward your heart, fighting against gravity and upper body pressure to keep blood moving in the right direction. Normal blood flow is maintained through two key mechanisms. First, your body relies on natural pressure from your leg muscles. Every time you move and muscle contract, they push against the veins and propel blood upward.

Meanwhile, one-way valves inside the veins open to let blood flow up your legs, then close to stop it from going back down. When the valves weaken or stop working properly, blood flows backward and accumulates in the vein. That’s when you develop enlarged, gnarled varicose veins.

Why pregnancy causes varicose veins

Your body undergoes some amazing changes to ensure your baby is well-nourished and healthy throughout your pregnancy. Here’s what happens in your blood vessels that’s vital for your baby, but can lead to varicose veins:

Blood volume increases

The total amount of blood circulating through your body progressively increases as your baby grows. Blood plasma increases 40-50%, while red blood cell mass gets a boost of 20-30%. The result is that your veins must transport significantly more blood.

Pregnancy weight adds pressure

As your baby grows, the increasing weight puts pressure on the inferior vena cava, a large vein that picks up blood from your lower body and takes it the rest of the way to your heart. Pressure on the inferior vena cava contributes to distended leg veins.

Hormones affect the valves

High levels of progesterone are needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy. However, progesterone also weakens valves and relaxes the walls in your veins.

The cumulative effect of these three pregnancy changes means:

  • Blood is more likely to flow backward due to relaxed valves
  • Veins will expand more than normal due to weakened and distended vein walls
  • Increased blood volume magnifies the problem
  • Your chances of developing varicose veins go through the ceiling

If you didn’t have varicose veins before your pregnancy, the problem may gradually go away on its own after delivery. In the meantime, varicose veins can become painful, itchy, and begin to bleed under the skin.

Vein problems during pregnancy aren’t limited to varicose veins

Women face a higher risk of two other vein problems when they’re pregnant:

Chronic venous insufficiency

Chronic venous insufficiency develops when blood pools in leg veins, usually due to weak valves or because a blood clot partially blocks the vein. While venous insufficiency may lead to varicose veins, it’s known for other serious problems, such as swollen lower legs, itchy skin, and venous stasis ulcers. Venous stasis ulcers typically appear on your lower leg or ankle, turning into sores that may bleed and are slow to heal.

Blood clots

From the day you become pregnant, your body prepares to stop blood loss during delivery. Throughout your pregnancy, blood levels of clotting factors increase, some by about 50%. Although blood clots are rare, you should be aware that deep vein thrombosis (DVT) most often occurs in the first trimester and the first six weeks after delivery.

If you develop a skin sore or rash, swelling or pain in one leg, or your varicose veins become uncomfortable, call Vein Health Clinics or use the online booking feature to schedule an appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Pregnancy Cause Veins To Be More Visible?

During pregnancy, the increased blood volume and pressure in the veins and hormonal changes can weaken the walls of the veins, leading to varicose or spider veins. This can make veins more visible and prominent. Wearing compression stockings and staying active can help alleviate symptoms.

When Do Blue Veins Appear In Pregnancy?

Blue veins may appear early in pregnancy, as early as 4-5 weeks’ gestation, due to increased blood volume and hormonal changes. These changes can cause the veins to dilate and become more visible, particularly in the breasts and abdomen.

Is Blue Veins A Sign Of Pregnancy?

Blue veins can signify pregnancy, but they are not definitive indicators. Increased blood volume and hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause blue veins to appear on the breasts, abdomen, and other body areas. However, other factors can also cause blue veins to be visible.

Why Are My Veins So Visible Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the body produces more blood to support the growing fetus, which can cause increased blood volume and pressure in the veins. Hormonal changes can also cause the walls of the veins to weaken and dilate, leading to the appearance of visible veins, including varicose veins and spider veins.

Does Pregnancy Make Your Veins More Visible?

Yes, pregnancy can make your veins more visible due to increased blood volume and hormonal changes that weaken and dilate the walls of the veins. This can lead to the appearance of varicose veins and spider veins on the legs, breasts, and abdomen.

Why Do Your Veins Pop Out During Pregnancy?

Veins may pop out during pregnancy due to increased blood volume and pressure, as well as hormonal changes that cause the walls of the veins to weaken and dilate. This can result in the appearance of varicose veins and spider veins, which can be uncomfortable or even painful.

What Color Are Your Veins When Pregnant?

The color of your veins during pregnancy can vary, but they may appear bluish-green or purple due to the increased blood volume and pressure. The visibility of veins can also depend on the skin tone and thickness, as well as the location of the veins on the body.

When Do Veins Appear In Pregnancy?

Veins can become more visible during early pregnancy due to increased blood volume and hormonal changes. Blue veins on the breasts, abdomen, and legs can appear early in the first trimester. However, every pregnancy is different, and vein visibility can vary.

Where Is The Vena Cava Pregnancy?

The vena cava is a large vein that carries blood from the lower body to the heart. During pregnancy, it can be found on the right side of the spine and can be compressed by the uterus, which can affect blood flow and lead to dizziness or fainting.

About The Author

Dr. Obinna Nwobi

Dr. Obinna Nwobi is a board certified vascular surgeon, who chose to practice in an underserved area in Florida. In a field that graduates only 100 new vascular surgeons a year, Dr. Nwobi is an exemplary vascular surgeon who worked for the Indian Health Services, Veterans Affairs Hospital, and large private and public hospitals.


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