Your Venous System and Pregnancy
Pregnancy is miraculous and while some women breeze through it and feel great, many others do not. Women love to share stories of their maternity experience, but there are side effects no one seems to talk about. We’re not talking about the sleepless nights; everyone will tell you about those. We’re talking about the toll that the female body takes during months of pregnancy and the lasting effects post-delivery.
One of the most common issues pregnant women deal with is the effects of the lower venous system. Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) causes varicose veins, edema, skin discoloration, itching, pain or heaviness, and night cramps. About 80% of pregnant women deal with the effects of CVI and it becomes more prevalent during the third trimester. This is caused by the influx of hormones and increase in blood volume – about 20%. This means veins have to work even harder due to weight gain, pressure on the pelvis, hormonal changes, and the increase of blood volume.
These changes are essential to develop a healthy baby, but they end up taking a toll on the heart and venous system. This process creates more pressure in the veins of the legs and causes blood to flow more slowly back toward the heart. This can lead to the venous valves inability to close properly and blood can pool in the veins, causing itching and pain in your legs. Even worse, the pooling of blood can create a fluid leak into the surrounding tissues, leading to swollen legs, ankles and feet. As a result, many pregnant women also develop varicose veins. According to Swiss Medical Weekly, about 30% of pregnant women develop varicose veins and 55% develop them after multiple pregnancies. The symptoms include visually bulging veins in the legs and can also mature into worse conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT.
DVT, a more pressing concern with pregnancy and the venous system, is a type of Venous Thromboembolism or VTE. VTE is the number one cause of maternal death in developed countries. About 7 out of every 1,000 pregnant women suffer from VTE. Additionally, pregnant women are five times more likely to be diagnosed with VTE over non-pregnant women. This disorder occurs throughout the same process of leg blood flow obstruction by the growing uterus.
So how do you prevent these issues when pregnant? The best answer is wearing compression garments. The symptoms of heavy, tired, and aching legs as well as these venous disorders occurs with prolonged sitting or standing, genetic venous disorders, multiple pregnancies, or pre-existing venous conditions. To combat these issues, compression garments assist the venous system in blood circulation and delivering blood back to the heart. They also reduce the swelling and tiredness of the legs and feet. Not only do compression stockings aide in blood circulation, but research shows that compression reduces risk of edema. What is important to know, is that the symptoms of these disorders can continue into the post-partum period, and compression can assist in relieving symptoms after childbirth.
Compression hosiery can be used for venous disorder and to help reduce accumulation of fluid and swelling in legs. Compression should especially be worn from the third month of pregnancy until two to three months after delivery. Most brands have style options and colors to match your lifestyle. You can purchase pantyhose with a comfortable belly panel for your baby bump (note the panel does not contain compression), thigh-high stocking, or knee socks. Your physician or midwife can help you find what is best for you.
Always listen to your body during your pregnancy, rest when you need it and stay active when you feel up to it. You can download a brochure to share with your clinician and speak about your compression options using this link: https://mediusa.box.com/s/sjgwhqb25obkfiw9hme64z12mo63a38v
We wish you luck with your current or future pregnancy!