What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are abnormally enlarged superficial veins usually seen in the thigh and leg. In the majority of cases, these large superficial veins are of a cosmetic nuisance. These veins connect with the deep veins of the leg and play a minor role in the transfer of blood to the heart. The veins become more prominent in your 30’s and 40’s and are more common in females. Varicose veins are also more common in pregnant females. The varicose veins become more prominent during the 2nd trimester of pregnancy.

How common are varicose veins?

At least 50-60% of females suffer to some degree from varicose veins.

Why are varicose veins common in pregnancy?

The cause of varicose veins is unknown but is definitely linked to increase pressure in the veins. There are valves in the veins which prevent the back flow of blood back into the legs. When these valves become damaged/defective, the blood flows backwards and causes swelling and engorgement of the veins.

During pregnancy, there is a gain of weight and volume. Further the female sex hormones are thought to weaken the walls of the veins and make them lax, thus causing them to engorge with blood.

Where are varicose veins most common during pregnancy?

Varicose veins are generally more prominent in the legs but during late pregnancy, they may develop near the vulva or vagina. The major reason is that the female retains a lot of weight and fluid during pregnancy. In addition, the baby in utero may also compress some parts of the pelvis (lower abdomen) and lead to an engorgement of the veins in the vulva/vagina. If a female has varicose veins of the vulva during pregnancy, she will always have varicosities of the legs at the same time.

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