Unfortunately the pregnancy hormone progesterone relaxes the muscular walls of the veins, makes the valves inefficient and makes circulation sluggish.
If you have a family history of varicose veins, this may make you more prone to them during pregnancy. If your work involves standing for long periods of time, this may increase your risk also. Varicose veins can occur in the legs, the anus and, very rarely, in the vulva.
To avoid exacerbating any risk of varicose veins in your legs make sure you get enough gentle exercise during your pregnancy. Walking is good as this will exercise your calf muscles and help your circulation. Put your feet up as often as you can - the rest will do you good! If you have to stand for any length of time, try to keep flexing your calf muscles (this will also help if you feel faint). When sitting, make sure your legs aren't crossed and elevate your feet on a low stool. Exercise your legs and ankles by rotating your feet while sitting, as this will also exercise your calf muscles. Support tights may be helpful too. If you have varicose veins that become painful during pregnancy, try sleeping with the foot of the bed raised by about 15 cm (6 inches). Witch hazel compresses applied to the veins may help reduce swelling and inflammation. Increase your dietary intake of garlic, which is always good for improving circulation. The addition of essential oil of lemon to a warm bath may also be soothing. Don't massage over affected veins.
Take whatever preventative measures and steps you can to relieve the discomfort of varicose veins. They will improve once your baby has been delivered and your hormones settled down again.
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