V is for Varicose Veins
This pregnancy condition can be painful, embarrassing, and even cause anxiety about the birth process. It’s usually harmless, but very uncomfortable and downright annoying. What is it? Varicose veins. You might usually associate these with your grandma’s legs, but we’re going to talk about this condition and how it relates to pregnancy and postpartum recovery. These are distended veins that can occur in the legs or genitals during pregnancy, and usually go away after giving birth. Read on to learn more about this condition, causes, and treatment. I’ve included a soothing salve recipe created just for varicose veins during pregnancy!
What Causes Varicose Veins?
The physical symptoms are caused by increased blood flow through the pelvis and legs during pregnancy. This increased blood flow can put pressure on the legs, butt, and vaginal area. Although age, weight, and activity level can be a factor in having this uncomfortable condition, sometimes it is due to increased levels of pregnancy hormones, and seems to be hereditary.
Visible veins that appear slightly distended
Veins can be varying in shades of red, blue, or purple in color
Itchy, uncomfortable feeling
Tired, achy feeling in legs
Swelling in legs
If you notice the veins are warm or hot to the touch, are very swollen, bleeding, a rash appears, or you are overly uncomfortable, these are signs of a Deep Vein Thrombosis or blood clot and should be taken very seriously.
Prevention and Treatment
Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
Avoid high heels
Exercise often, to your comfort level
Use a support belt or tape on your growing belly
Avoid crossing your legs (swinging out of bed, car, etc)
Elevate your legs often
Stretch, or practice yoga
Hydrate, keep up fiber, and avoid excess sodium
Consider herbal remedies, such as Plantain, St Johns Wort, or Witch Hazel. Consult with a medical care provider for safety concerns and feel free to contact me directly if you’re unsure how to use these herbs.
Hemorrhoids are another variation of this condition, when the veins occur in the rectum or anus. They can also be rather painful and irritating. This can be caused by constipation, but other times it is simply related to the pelvic pressure. For hemorrhoid treatment, use sitz baths, creams, witch hazel, and moist medicated wipes for comfort. Avoid straining, especially during the first bowel movement after birth. Most hemorrhoids do shrink in time, with care and a healthy diet. Here’s some great tips on postpartum bowel movements.
Herbs that may help soothe hemorrhoids during pregnancy are Calendula, Parsley, St Johns Wort, and Witch Hazel For a premade herbal concoction, some of my clients swear by Motherlove’s Rhoid Balm.
Soothing Salve for Pregnancy Legs
Recipe by Lyndsay O’Neill
1 part St Johns Wort
1 part Calendula
1 part Witch Hazel
1 cup EVOO or preferred carrier oil
1/2 cup Beeswax
1 T Cocoa or Shea Butter
Start by infusing your carrier oil with your herbs. Simply place the herbs in a clean, dry mason jar and cover them completely with the chosen oil. You can simply set this in the sun for a day and then let it steep for up to 2 weeks, or you can use the quick crock pot method. To do this, place the sealed jar in a crockpot on low heat and add water to almost an inch below the jar’s lid. Let the oil infuse for up to 4 hours, shaking the jar occasionally. (Watch it, it gets hot!)
After infusing the oil, strain by pressing against a fine strainer or using a cheesecloth. Using a double boiler (or a pyrex bowl above a simmering saucepan) mix the infused oil you’ve created with the beeswax and cocoa butter or shea butter as desired. Heat over low heat until all the ingredients have fully combined. Pour into your salve container and let cool. If it’s not the texture you want, add more oil or more beeswax and combine over heat again.
This is a soothing, cooling salve that would benefit anyone with swelling in their legs or painful varicose veins. You can also add a few drops of essential oils like Lavender for the added calming effects and the aromatherapy benefits. Comfrey, Hawthorn, or Yarrow could also be used based on preference if the salve isn’t for use during pregnancy.
It’s helpful to know that most varicose veins go away on their own within 3 months to a year after birth, and usually don’t cause issues with the birth experience. If you are concerned about the birth process, consider a water birth. They are considered wonderful pain relief and many say they are “nature’s epidural.” There is also the added benefit of ease in position changes and feeling the immersion of the warm water. I would advise to avoid straining or pushing with excessive force or before you feel ready. Avoid interventions, pitocin, etc as these things will rush your body and inhibit your natural progress. Most importantly of all, choose a supportive birth team and an environment you feel comfortable.
Another specific pelvic discomfort I want to mention is Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, as the two sometimes occur at the same time or are confused with one another. Many of my recommendations for SPD will be helpful for finding comfort with varicose veins. I hope you found this article helpful. Leave me a comment or question below, or drop me a line here!