Traveling In Italy While Pregnant: How To Prevent Varicose Veins

Are you planning on traveling in Italy during your pregnancy and suffering from varicose veins? This common side effect of pregnancy hormones is especially uncomfortable during summer months, when it’s too hot to cover up. Gladly there are some preventative measures you can take to decrease vein swelling and increase blood circulation.

If you are traveling in Italy while pregnant and have any specific concerns or suffer from any ailments during your time in Rome, be sure to contact DoctorsinItaly to find a doctor available for a House Call, to arrange a Same-Day Appointment at a doctor’s office or to get advice on Hospital Assistance.

50% of pregnant women have ankle oedema and 20 to 30% of pregnant women are affected by varicose veins.

What causes varicose veins during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) contribute to the onset or worsening of varicose veins problems. Women are at a higher risk of vein diseases during their period, while on contraceptive pill, but also and in particular during pregnancy.

50% of pregnant women have ankle oedema and 20 to 30% of pregnant women are affected by varicose veins.

After delivery, the hormones are usually brought back to normal and most effects of the prolonged exposure to elevated hormones subside with a complete “restitutio ad integrum” (complete resolution).

Sometimes, however, effects of the hormonal changes can remain after the delivery. In particular during the second pregnancy, part of the varices that appear can be permanent.

The increased hormones may cause:

  • Decreased venous tone resulting in dilation of the veins
  • Incomplete valve closure
  • Venous circulation is slowed down
  • 20-30% increase in body blood volume throughout the body
  • Increased venous pressure
  • Increased blood coagulability, especially in the 3rd trimester

 

Apart from this last point, all other events may cause vein dilation.

During the second part of pregnancy, when the uterus grows and presses on the vena cava (the big vein that passes in the abdomen), blood pressure in the legs continues to increase, and the venous circulation becomes even slower. Note that the onset of varicose veins comes before the volume increase of the uterus, and this is due to the hormone action. The enlargement of the uterus may nonetheless contribute to the worsening of the problem.

All this “circulatory revolution” can frighten if described in this way.

Because the body is so adaptable and primed for pregnancy, the effects usually occur and subside on their own, even if preventative measures are taken.

New onset varicose veins tend to subside completely or partially by the third month after childbirth. However, at each subsequent pregnancy, it is more likely that regression is less complete. Varicose veins present before the pregnancy tend to get worse. This is why it is always better to deal with the existing varicose veins problems before getting pregnant or early in your pregnancy.

How to prevent varicose veins during pregnancy?

Pregnancy hormones are essential for priming the future mother’s body to help grow a healthy baby. Their effects on the venous circulation of the legs are just a secondary event – annoying and unwanted.

These effects can be summarized as follows:

  • Varicose vein
  • Capillaries (possibly associated with varices)
  • Ankle swelling
  • Vein inflammation and thrombosis.

Preventive measures are easy to implement. They are designed to narrow the dilated veins increasing blood speed and lowering the pressure. This reduces the swelling and the blood stasis.

Advice for reducing varicose veins issues while pregnant

If you care for a piece of advice from someone who has spent a lifetime working with vein care issues of all sorts, here are a few tips:

  • Limit the time spent standing or sitting
  • Interrupt your daily activity with one or more resting periods
  • Walk on a daily basis at least for one hour at a steady pace
  • Use comfortable shoes
  • Avoid gaining too much weight
  • Use preventive elastic stockings (at least 15 mm Hg)

 

When varicose veins are already developed, the use of compressive stockings becomes more important. In some cases preventive stockings are not enough to counteract the pressure of particularly prominent varicose veins. Therefore, it may be necessary to use higher class of compression or even bandages. Compression is mandatory in the presence of phlebitis, ulcer, or severe swelling. At the time of delivery and first childbirth, attention should be paid to venous thrombosis, which is the most serious complication.

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Stefano Ricci, MD

Prof. Ricci is a world class phlebologist and one of the leading experts on veins and vein care in Italy. He is Honorary Member of the American College of Phlebology.
Honorary Member of American Society of Ambulatory Phlebectomy.
Member of Société Française de Phlébologie.
Founder and former Editor in Chief of Veins and Lymphatics Journal.
Italian representative of Société Européenne de Phlébectomie.

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