March 12, 2020
I’ve mentioned my varicose veins many times on the blog and social media but with this pregnancy, these bulging veins have reached new levels. If you’re dealing with varicose veins as well, if you’re curious what to do should they arise at any point in your pregnancy or if you’re just curious what it’s like to have spider or varicose veins, this one is for you.
I first noticed an intense soreness in my legs about halfway through my pregnancy with Keogena. One day, I looked and noticed some firework type veins as well as some small bulging had arisen and I was so confused. My grandparents have varicose veins. My mom, after having 7 children, has spider veins. I was a 26 year old mother with a toddler and pregnant with my second–why was this happening to me? (I wrote an essay on my thoughts during that pregnancy with Keogena and still cherish it. You can read it here.)
The pain, discomfort and unpleasantness only increased for the rest of that pregnancy, skyrocketed immediately postpartum and then died down around the time my postpartum bleeding stopped. Every month during my cycle, the pain and swelling and intensity will be much worse but otherwise the veins just are what they are. They’re unattractive, they’re worse on very active days than on chill days and can be really uncomfortable to look at but for the most part they are predictable and manageable.
What are varicose veins? Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins. They tend to look purplish or even blue and green and tend to be swollen and bulging in the leg. During pregnancy, our bodies carry such a larger volume of blood that varicose veins can often be a symptom that come just from carrying that baby. They’re mostly just a bummer from a physical, visual standpoint but can become dangerous if they lead to a blood clot.
Do they hurt? Mine do. Sometimes the pain is unbearable and for someone with a very high pain tolerance, that is saying a lot. Mine become the most painful, swollen and “gnarly” as O would say when I’ve overdone it on activity. During pregnancy and that time of the month I have to wear a full compression stocking on my right leg if I know I have a day where I’ll be on my feet for long periods of time, will be more active or if I have any exercise planned. I often have to take a break and elevate my leg to help the circulation if the pain becomes too much.
What should I do if I have/get varicose veins? Nothing, really. For the most part they are harmless but ulcers and blood clots can occur as a side effect. Look out for any strange and new discoloration, the vein being very red, hot to the touch and tender to the touch and stay educated about what is normal and what is not. I’ve had ultrasounds on my legs during this pregnancy and my last just to be sure on more painful days and thankfully they have come back healthy both times.
How do I manage the pain and prevent them from getting worse? Compression tights will be your best friend. I mean, they’ll also be you worst enemy because they can be itchy and uncomfortable and so.dang.hard to take off with a giant pregnant belly in the way but really, they’re crucial. If you just have a couple here and there on your lower leg, you can wear a compression sock and be totally fine. If you, like me, have veins that run all the way across the lower half of your body- bum and all- you have to wear either full maternity stockings (which unfortunately don’t have as strong of a compression as I need) or the stockings that pull right up to your underwear. I know, I know. Not fun. But the pain and swelling is dramatically decreased when I’m regularly wearing my compression tights. If you’re traveling while pregnant, you should always wear compression socks whether you have varicose veins or not just to help circulation.
I wrote more about my compression stockings and which ones I’ve preferred this pregnancy in my First Trimester Recap post here.
To be honest, I still struggle with these veins of mine sometimes. More-so because they’re painful and inconvenient and can be another item added to my list of things to consider (will this be too much activity? will I need to elevate my legs if I do that? have I done enough activity to promote circulation?) but mostly because I can get in a pity party of “why me?” I’m a young, active woman who has always loved exercise, been very strong and healthy and taken care of myself. I can feel embarrassed and angry about them at times but the Lord is doing a work in me through these purple and green twisting veins. I have a long way to go, but I often just thank the Lord that I have legs to carry me and support my babies. Gratitude changes everything every single time.
If you have any questions, I’m an open book!