Health

An Honest Conversation About Varicose Veins During Pregnancy, Part 2

A woman’s body is stunning and awe-inspiring.  She can nurture a baby in the most intimate, loving way, birthing new life.  You don’t have to live with the embarrassment or stigma from changes that occur to your body during pregnancy.”  —Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD

No 30-something woman wants to be told she has varicose veins.  There are moments when it feels like you are wearing a “scarlet letter” that everyone is whispering about as you walk by.  Hiding might feel instinctive, but it is not the solution.  In fact, there are many interventions for varicose veins that can empower you to regain your confidence and love your legs!  

Throughout the process of dealing with my own insecurities related to varicose veins popping up during pregnancy in Part 1, I learned that my confidence is my own.  I can either claim it or give it away.

(My varicose veins- left leg; spider around the knee and down the interior portion of leg)

We can wait and long for others to admire our beautifully complex body OR, we can decide that what God made is GOOD.  Truth.

But living life confidently and proud of our perfectly imperfect body doesn’t mean we can’t (or shouldn’t) take advantage of options to care for our bodies.  If varicose veins are a reality for you, solutions are available.

FIRST, if you have not been evaluated by a physician, make an appointment with a vein specialist or at least your primary care physician so that your specific situation can be assessed and proper diagnosis can be delivered.  No referral was needed for me to set up an appointment at GHS Center for Venous and Lymphatic Medicine, so a simple call to your local vein center will let you know how you can proceed.  

Depending on your specific diagnosis, different treatment options will be available.  If you are currently pregnant, it is recommended that you wait 3-12 months post-delivery to allow your body to recover from pregnancy and lose weight gained.  This also allows for natural fading to occur, which is likely due to the reduction in blood volume and less pressure from your shrinking uterus.  

There are several proactive measures you can take during pregnancy to halt or minimize varicose veins from getting worse.  Many of them were discussed in An Honest Conversation About Varicose Veins During Pregnancy, Part 1, and today I am going to share more information about methods I put into action in my own life.  Then, therapies and treatments post-pregnancy will be discussed to inform you of additional actions you can take if those pesky ugly guys hang around.

 

DURING PREGNANCY

Varicose veins and similar vein issues tend to get worse as the baby gets larger during pregnancy.  Therefore, the goal during at this time is to support the body in every way possible to slow the progression of the issue.  

Women can be quite proactive by exercising regularly, not sitting or standing for long periods, eating a diet rich in fiber and antioxidants as well as minimizing high sodium and processed foods.  Even swimming in cool water can help relieve the pressure and discomfort!  But there are 2 specific tools I used in addition to these diet and lifestyle behaviors/interventions to support my body and feel better during pregnancy.

 

Compression Hose

These are not sexy, BUT, they work!  If you want some attractive legs after you and your spouse decide your nest is “full” then these are worth wearing for a few months as baby is growing.  Compression hose prevent or manage swelling and edema in your legs and feet along with:

  • Improve circulation
  • Reduce pain and discomfort of varicose veins

What You Should Know

  • They come in a variety of shades, styles, lengths, and sizes.  
  • There are different levels of compression.  Your healthcare provider can help you determine what level you need based on your diagnosis.
  • Compression hose DO take time to put on.  They are snug for a reason- that’s why they work!  You will think that you ordered 2 sizes too small.

My Experience

Medi USA sent me 2 different types of compression hose to test out:

  1. Mediven Comfort, Open Toe, Thigh Lace, Level 2 Compression, Color Sandstone
  2. Mediven Comfort, Closed Toe, Maternity Panty Hose, Level 2 Compression, Color Sandstone

(Thigh High Compression Hose)

(Maternity Compression Panty Hose)

The first time you put them on it will feel like you are battling a pack of wolves, destined to be consumed.  The second time you put them on it will feel like the longest uphill battle you have ever fought.  But, by the 6th or 7th time, it will feel like you are trying to fit into pants that are 2 sizes too small.

Gradually it will get a bit easier and you will get a bit quicker.  I can now put the thigh high compression hose on in about 4 minutes (yes, I timed myself).  

These videos guide you step-by-step how to put compression hose on and take off:

The reason I put these on almost every single day is because my legs immediately feel better as soon as they are in place.  They feel lighter and I don’t experience discomfort from the varicose veins.  I put them on before I get dressed in the morning and usually take them off around 6-7pm.  In the beginning I was horrified and embarrassed at the thought of wearing them, but I got over it because I care about my health and my legs.  

Do I wear them out of the house?  YES!  If you have encountered me at any time in the last few months, chances are I am wearing them.  I have worn them with shorts and tennis shoes, jeans, under dresses and skirts.  The open toe option allows you to wear almost any pair of shoes without feeling like you are in ‘granny panties.’  

 

Maternity Belts, Pelvic & Back Support Bands

There are a variety of maternity support options to wear underneath your clothing to lift the abdomen, relieve pressure and promote beneficial circulation.  The brand, It’s You Babe, has 9 different band options to allow you to find the most useful one to support your body.  The discussion can begin with your Midwife or OBGYN, but a vein specialist may also discuss these options with you as well.  Whether you are experiencing back pain, varicose veins, sciatica or simply want to provide yourself with better pelvic floor support, this is an option to pursue.

(PF PRESS FRONT)

(PF PRESS BACK; velcro to adjust)

My Experience

It’s You Babe sent me the PF Press to try out for pelvic floor therapy and vulvar varicosities.  Varicose veins can also show up in the vulvar area, often producing a feeling a fullness or pressure in your genitalia.  This particular product helps lift and relieve the pressure to promote appropriate blood flow.

The PF Press can easily be worn under any pants, skirt or dress (over your underwear).  It worked very well for me.  Once the belt arrived in the mail, I wore it daily, with the exception of cleaning it.  I highly doubt anyone would know it is being worn, so this tool can certainly be hidden well under clothing.

 

AFTER PREGNANCY

According to the American Pregnancy Association, it can take 3-12 months for varicose veins to “diminish” after delivery.  While most women I know wouldn’t be excited to wait that long to “see” if they go away, it is necessary to give your body time to lose pregnancy weight and extra blood volume and fluid.  A Vascular Medicine Physician will likely schedule for you to come in for assessment during that 3-12 month window to evaluate your next steps.  If you are finished having children, these are some potential options you can discuss with your vein specialist:

 

Laser Surgery

A laser light is focused on the varicose vein which causes it to fade away.  It is used to treat small varicose veins.  No cutting, injections or medications/chemicals are used.

 

Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT)

A thin laser fiber is inserted into the vein and uses heat to close off the vein.  This same day procedure occurs while the patient is awake, with area numbed.  Advantages include minimal scarring and individual can quickly return to everyday activities.

 

Sclerotherapy

Often used to treat smaller varicose and spider veins, this procedure is done in-office by injecting a solution into the unhealthy vein to cause it to shrink, turn to scar tissue and fade away.  Depending on the vein’s size, it can require 3-6 treatments to close off the vein, typically scheduled every 4-6 weeks.  It is recommended to wear compression hose following the procedure for 2 weeks to support legs.

 

Micro-incisional OR Ambulatory Phlebectomy

Using local anesthesia and usually performed in the doctor’s office, the physician makes small cuts to remove the varicose vein.  Unlike “vein stripping” this approach is less invasive, minimizing cuts and incision size.

 

Vein Stripping & Ligation

The most invasive of vein procedures and only used for severe cases of varicose veins, this surgery ties down and cuts parts of the ill-functioning vein to remove them.  The patient is usually sedated under general anesthesia in the hospital.  It can require 1-4 weeks for recovery time.   

Each vein specialty center may have slightly different variations of procedures offered to patients. Physicians should educate patients on all options available at their center but recommend the one that will best address the health issue with the least risk, side effects and recovery time.  

Definitely make sure to thoroughly discuss options with your physician, understanding the length of the procedure and potential side effects. Ask questions about scarring, pain, whether consecutive appointments will be necessary and best practices to help prevent future varicose vein issues.

Make sure you feel informed, comfortable and secure as you make the best decision with your healthcare provider.

Rest assured… According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “removing or closing varicose veins usually doesn’t cause problems with blood flow because the blood starts moving through other veins.”

Varicose veins are unattractive, but they are also a sign of venous insufficiency.  That means that they are not working or functioning as designed.  Addressing this particular issue with a specialist is not just about having attractive legs, but maintaining or improving the health of your circulatory system.  

It’s not vanity- it’s your health, vitality, mobility, and confidence.

YOU ARE WORTH IT!

TRUTH: Prepare plans by consultation.  –Proverbs 20:18a (NASB)

 

NOTE: This is NOT a sponsored post.  Thank you to Medi and It’s You Babe for allowing me to test out the products provided.  All opinions are my own.

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