Varicose veins and leg cramps during pregnancy
Leg cramps and varicose veins are both uncomfortable and annoying problems that affect many women during pregnancy. Aoibhin McGreal, our women’s health Physiotherapist, explains how to manage these pregnancy related conditions.
Pregnancy is a risk factor for developing varicose veins due to the increased blood volume; and the decreased speed at which blood returns from your legs to your heart, during pregnancy. This happens as a result of the hormone progestin, which causes vasodilation (a widening of your blood vessels).
Varicose veins most commonly occur in the legs; however, they can also occur in the vulva. This can prove to be very uncomfortable as it can lead to substantial swelling which causes a feeling of increased pressure, and can make it difficult to sit or stand comfortably. Hemorrhoids (also known as piles) are another form of varicose veins, that are common during pregnancy; and these occur at the back passage. They are worsened by constipation and straining.
Tips for managing varicose veins
1. Compression is key: For leg veins, invest in support stockings or support tights in order to support and compress the veins. For vulvar varicosities try supportive underwear such as the V2 supporter.
2. Take the weight off your feet: Prolonged standing can aggravate and worsen varicose veins, so it is advisable to take the weight off your feet whenever you get the chance. If you need to do a lot of standing at work, try to take regular breaks and sit down with feet elevated.
3. Avoid constipation: Constipation and straining can put increased pressure on the pelvic floor and can make hemorrhoids worse, for this reason it is important that you ensure that you are drinking enough water every day. This may be more relevant if you are on iron supplements as these can cause you to be more constipated. If you find that you are suffering from constipation and cannot correct it by modifying your diet you should discuss this with your GP or your healthcare practitioner.