Are you delighted with your beautiful baby, but less delighted with a lingering crop of unsightly varicose veins or painful hemorrhoids? Many women develop varicose veins during pregnancy. Usually they resolve on their own a few months after delivery. However, you’re less likely to see them vanish if you had varicose veins before pregnancy, have had multiple pregnancies, have a family history of varicose veins, are overweight, or tend to stand for long periods. Varicosities occur most commonly in the legs because of the physical challenge inherent in pumping blood from the lower legs and feet all the way back up, against gravity, to the heart. Other common sites include the vulva and the rectum (also known as hemorrhoids). As varicose veins increase pressure in the capillaries, they can lead to another common complaint called spider veins: tiny blood vessels near the surface of the skin that often appear in a sunburst pattern. Thankfully spider veins do not cause discomfort and usually disappear shortly after birth.
You can support the healing process and create an optimal environment to speedily shrink varicose veins with the following simple steps:
Pump it – get moving to get your blood flowing!
Exercise daily. It can be as simple as a brisk walk for 25 minutes to stimulate healthy circulation. For even greater impact, try a postnatal workout in The Dia Method series. The 25-minute workouts keep you moving in and out of multiple body positions while elevating your heat rate through sustained, targeted resistance training that pumps blood through every muscle of your body.
You’re probably running after babies/toddlers much of the time, but during less active moments avoid crossing your legs or ankles while sitting. Also avoid sitting and standing for long periods of time. When it’s unavoidable, schedule ‘movement breaks’ for yourself every 30-45 minutes to change your body position and move around. Stand up and stretch, walk, perform a set of squats, march in place. Do whatever you can to keep circulation pumping effectively. Continue your movement of choice until you feel a gentle wave of warmth surge through your body. That warmth indicates you’ve given your circulation the needed kick in the butt.
Get horizontal, and then some.
Elevate your legs and feet as much as possible. Aim for at least 10 minutes a day, preferably in the afternoon or evening. Also try elevating the foot of your bed by a couple inches to promote venous return while you sleep. Make sure the support you choose is solid and secure. Scrap wood from the hardware store is a good, simple option that works just fine.
Compression tights are a godsend.
Wear compression stockings. I particularly recommend graduated compressions stockings. They’re designed to be tightest at the foot/ankle and offer increasingly light support as they travel up the leg. This ideally promotes venous return from your extremities back to the heart, which minimizes swelling and improves varicose veins. Compression tights are available at most drug stores, and you can also buy them online. One great site with a range of affordable options is www.TheraWear.com. They also carry compression leggings in a variety of fun colors if that’s more up your alley than glorified pantyhose. For best results, put the tights on first thing in the morning, while still lying in bed. And keep them on all day. Compression stocking are remarkably effective and an absolute necessity if you suffer symptoms of varicose veins.
Quick mention of the unmentionable: hemorrhoids.
Constipation, which is quite common post-pregnancy, can aggravate existing varicose veins in and around the vulva and rectum (the latter are also known as hemorrhoids). In addition to following the above tips, you can decrease pressure on the veins in these sensitive areas by following the elimination techniques I outline here. With a few simple changes you will avoid straining, which not only takes pressure off those swollen, painful veins so they can heal but also avoids bulging your abdominal muscles forward. In so doing, you will facilitate a faster recovery of your abdominal muscles, as I explain in this post. Not a bad bonus.
Varicose veins often disappear months after delivery, but sometimes it takes longer and sometimes they never go away (especially after multiple pregnancies). I suggest doing what you can to support a speedy recovery instead of waiting to see if they clear up on their own. If basic healing support is not sufficient to resolve the condition, talk with your doctor about a range of effective medical treatments. But do note that it’s generally best to hold off on medical interventions until after your final pregnancy.