Are you planning on traveling in Italy during your pregnancy and suffering from varicose veins? This common side effect of pregnancy hormones is uncomfortable during summer months, when it’s too hot to cover up, but 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 Doctors in Italy who can visit you for a House Call, arrange a Same-Day Appointment for you in our clinic or advise on Hospital Assistance if the matter is urgent.
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 edema 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:
Apart from the 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.
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:
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.
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.
Prof. Stefano Ricci 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