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Varicose Veins in Pregnancy

May 20, 2015 ACP Blog

In the latest podcast, Dr. Kistner discusses varicose veins during pregnancy. While listening, I was immediately reminded of a neighbor I had named Abbey.  Abbey had 4 children, the last two being twins. Early on in her pregnancy she developed a huge vein that protruded from the top of her leg all the way down to her ankle. It was an impressive sight! Especially since Abbey was stick-thin with a very large belly full of twins. One of her legs looked like she had a rope under the skin.

By the time Abbey’s babies were born, both of her ankles had become swollen and other veins started to become more rope-like. Her physician requested that she wear compression stockings and make sure to elevate her legs whenever she was sitting down. Since she was pregnant at the time, her physician told her she was not a candidate for vein surgery.

By the time Abbey’s babies were close to a month old her ankle swelling had resolved and the only vein that remained visible was the original ropey one.  As a registered nurse, Abbey knew a little bit about varicose veins, but became concerned about that big vein after her mother, who also had varicose veins, was diagnosed with phlebitis.

Abbey went to her family doctor to have her leg evaluated and he sent her to a vascular surgeon for a work up. That specialist encouraged her to have her vein closed off permanently, as she could be at risk for phlebitis too, because that ropey vein wasn’t working anymore. The blood in the vein wasn’t moving and would eventually clot off, causing pain while making the surrounding veins work harder. As a result, these hard-working veins might turn into varicose veins as well.  He stated that during her pregnancy, the pressure of one of the babies’ had been directly pushing on a vein in her pelvis, which acted like a dam, causing the blood to flow backwards.

Abbey decided to wait until the twins were a year old before she had the vein treated. After the procedure, she said she should have done it much sooner, because she felt so much better afterwards. She didn’t realize how much that bad vein had been the cause of increased fatigue, leg heaviness and leg cramps at night, which completely disappeared after the varicose vein was lasered closed.

Abbey is very glad now that she had the vein treated and even to this day, continues to wear her compression stockings to prevent any new varicose veins from forming.