Q: I plan on becoming pregnant soon. Should I treat my varicose veins now, or should I wait until after delivery?
A: Pregnancy does not cause varicose veins in the legs, but each pregnancy makes existing vein problems a great deal worse. If pregnancy did cause leg varicose veins they would be much more common in women than in men. Extensive population studies (including the Edinburgh Vein Study published in 1999) have proven this is not the case.
Elevated hormonal levels, expanding circulating blood volume, and the enlarged uterus all combine to exacerbate any existing venous insufficiency – the underlying cause of varicose veins. This severe venous hypertension creates a state in which new veins are recruited and existing varicose veins become larger and more symptomatic.
The leg pain and edema from these engorged veins tend to make pregnancy terribly uncomfortable. If the source of the venous insufficiency and existing varicose veins are eliminated before the first or any subsequent pregnancy, less damage will have been done to previously normal veins and to surrounding tissues. Treatment of mild disease is more straightforward, leading to shorter operative cases and quicker recovery.
If you are currently pregnant or trying to become pregnant, operative treatment cannot be performed. Wearing compression stockings and elevating your legs are you only options. We therefore recommend varicose veins be treated before becoming pregnant.