What are varicose veins?

A varicose vein can be described as a vein that has lost its elasticity. In essence, it has become weak and flabby and it expands, or dilates, easily. The first sign that one of your veins has become varicose is that when you stand up, the vein becomes swollen and visible below the skin.

Normally blood circulates from the heart to the legs via arteries and back to the heart through the veins. Veins contain one way valves which allow the blood to flow towards the heart, against gravity. If the valves become damaged, they leak, and the blood flows back to the legs (reflux). This causes the blood to pool in the leg veins. This excess volume of blood in the veins makes them enlarged or varicose

Pregnancy & varicose veins

One of the problems that shows early in many pregnancies is the appearance of varicose 
veins. If the lady already has them, then she notices that they are suddenly getting much worse. 

There are two reasons for this:

The first is that the enlarged womb presses on the veins in the mother's pelvis which slows the return of the blood form the legs to the heart. The pressure thus builds up within the veins in the legs and the pressure is thus transmitted all the way back to the surface veins of the leg which then expand.

Second, we know that female sex hormones (oestrogens) relax the muscles in the veins and this also increases the tendency of the veins to expand. 

Interestingly, the uncomfortable varicose veins of pregnancy rapidly improve once the baby has been born and these two aggravating factors have been removed. 

The standard treatment of varicose veins in pregnancy is to fit the mother with full length, properly fitting elastic support stockings.
Put your feet up! Raise your legs up during the day whenever possible and also sleeping with the feet raised on pillows or with the foot end of the bed raised by about 5 inches is very helpful. 

Once the pregnancy is over the varicose veins may be assessed wether the varicose veins, now much improved, need any treatment. If they are not too severe,treatment may be delayed until you have given birth to your last child. However, if the veins are causing discomfort, then any time from a few weeks after delivery is perfectly satisfactory for either sclerotherapy or laser treatment, whichever is right for your particular condition. 

Varicose veins are a progressive and irreversible condition and there is nothing yet known to medical science that will prevent them.