Varicose Veins During Pregnancy: What to Know

A pregnant woman sitting and touching her leg that has varicose veins

Varicose veins are common during pregnancy because of increased pressure on the circulatory system and poor blood flow. Unlike other types of vein conditions, varicose veins during pregnancy tend to resolve on their own within a few weeks to months after delivery. 

If you are currently struggling with varicose veins or want to know how to prevent varicose veins during pregnancy, here is what you need to know. 

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Pregnancy Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are experienced by about 40% of women during pregnancy and can occur on any part of the body[1]. They are most common on the legs, ankles, or genitals. 

There are three causes of varicose veins during pregnancy. First, blood volume increases by up to 20%, putting additional pressure on the veins. The hormone progesterone also increases, relaxing blood vessels and reducing valve function. As the baby grows, this puts pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvis, which also contributes to changes in blood flow. 

Varicose veins may start as spider veins that are a red or blueish color but do not protrude above the skin’s surface. Some women experience mild itching or burning at this stage, but typically, the veins are painless

As pregnancy progresses, the veins may become more swollen and twisted. This is when the increase in inflammation may begin to cause symptoms such as pain, heaviness, burning, or itching. Symptoms may be worse after long periods of sitting or standing. 

More severe varicose veins in pregnancy can lead to cramping and swelling of the legs, feet, and ankles. If the blood flow continues to be compromised and fluid builds up in the legs, it may result in painful wounds and sores called venous ulcers. 

A diagnosis of varicose veins while pregnant starts with a visit to your healthcare provider. They will examine the areas where the veins are occurring and ask about your medical history. 

Your doctor may recommend an ultrasound to measure blood flow if you have severe symptoms. The severity of the varicose veins, your medical history, and how far along you are in your pregnancy will help your provider determine the best way to proceed.

The Effects of Varicose Veins on Pregnancy

While varicose are uncomfortable for women, they are not serious or dangerous for you or your baby. You can have a normal pregnancy with varicose veins, and typically, the veins resolve once you have the baby.

An uncomfortable symptom of varicose veins and pregnancy may be hemorrhoids[2]. The veins in the anal area can swell, which can cause pain, itching, and bleeding after a bowel movement. Constipation, also common during pregnancy, can make these symptoms worse as you strain to pass a bowel movement. 

While most symptoms associated with varicose veins in pregnancy are mild, there are a few to look out for that may indicate something more severe. The biggest concern is that varicose veins may increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis or blood clots deep in the leg[3]. This can lead to serious complications, including pulmonary embolism.

If you experience extreme swelling, pain, or redness in your legs, this may indicate a blood clot. It is vital to speak to your provider as soon as possible so they can help you get the treatment you need. 

How to Prevent Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

Genetics, age, body weight, and lifestyle choices all increase your risk for varicose veins during pregnancy, but there are some ways to help prevent them, even if you are predisposed. Here are a few things you can do to help prevent varicose veins during pregnancy:

  • Keep your feet elevated during long periods of sitting.
  • If possible, don’t sit or stand for long periods.
  • Exercise regularly. (Walking or gentle yoga are great options during pregnancy.)
  • Sleep on your left side, relieving pressure from the inferior vena cava on the right side of the body.
  • Wear maternity hose or compression stockings to support your legs.
  • Watch your salt intake. Sodium increases blood volume, which can lead to swelling.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat foods high in fiber to avoid constipation.
  • Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes. Flats are better during pregnancy to support your feet and aid in circulation.

Sometimes, no matter how much you try to prevent varicose veins in pregnancy, they still show up. What can you do to ease the discomfort?

Treatment Options for Varicose Veins While Pregnant

During pregnancy, most surgical treatment options for varicose veins are not recommended. This is because the veins tend to return to normal within a few months after the baby is born. 

If you are uncomfortable with varicose veins, your healthcare provider can help make recommendations to manage them, starting with the lifestyle changes recommended above. Additionally, compression therapy is a noninvasive way to relieve many uncomfortable symptoms veins can cause. 

If you are experiencing severe symptoms, it’s important to get an evaluation to determine if something more serious is going on.

Treatment Options After Pregnancy: Why Wait? 

Once your pregnancy is over, the varicose veins should resolve within a few months. But some may linger for longer. If your veins are worsening or causing pain, Empire Vein Specialists has solutions for you. We are the top provider of VenaSealTM, the leading outpatient treatment, among other types of vein treatments.

Our team of qualified vascular surgeons can help reduce or eliminate symptoms associated with varicose veins quickly so you can get back to caring for your new baby right away. To learn which treatment is right for you, we encourage you to schedule a free 15-minute consultation or call 1-800-VARICOSE (1-800-827-4267). 


  1. Jain, B. K., & Choudhary, D. (2019). Surgical intervention for varicose veins during pregnancy: Is it sensible? Journal of Minimal Access Surgery, 15(3), 277–278.
  2. Hemorrhoids. (2000). Digestive System.
  3. Li, R., Chen, Z., Gui, L., Wu, Z., Miao, Y., Gao, Q., Diao, Y., & Li, Y. (2022). Varicose Veins and Risk of Venous Thromboembolic Diseases: A Two-Sample-Based Mendelian Randomization Study. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, 9, 849027.