Pregnancy-Related Varicose Veins, Do Stockings Help?
By Dr. Sarah Lucas
Varicose veins affect up to 30% of pregnant women, and the majority of pregnant women experience some venous insufficiency symptoms such as leg swelling, heaviness, and/or fatigue. Varicose veins most commonly emerge in the first trimester and progress over the course of the pregnancy and subsequent pregnancies. They usually improve after the baby is born, but many women never return to their pre-pregnancy state. This risk of varicose veins increases with each pregnancy, affecting more than 55% of women who have had more than two children.
For this reason, many patients ask what is the best approach to keeping their legs healthy during pregnancy. For the most part, the same guidelines apply to pregnant women as to other patients: keep active, wear compression stockings to control leg swelling and discomfort, and elevate the legs as needed. It is very rare for pregnant women to require surgery for varicose veins. We typically recommend patients wait at least three months postpartum or until breastfeeding is complete to get treatment.
A recent study presented at the European Venous Forum suggests that compression stockings may actually reduce the risk of varicose veins during pregnancy. Women with no history of varicose veins were randomly assigned to wear thigh-high compression stockings or no stockings starting in the first trimester. Among the women who completed the study, varicose veins developed in 12% of those who wore stockings vs. 27% of those who did not. This was a small study (146 patients) but encouraging for women who want to are concerned about onset or worsening of varicose veins during pregnancy.