Pregnancy and Varicose Veins

Illustration 188340471 © Victoria Sokolova


What is a varicose vein?

A varicose vein is the dilated purple/blue-green veins that can be seen most often on the legs. It is caused by a valve in the vein that is not working efficiently to move blood back to the heart. As a result, blood drains back down the legs and pools together to cause varicose veins. It can cause no symptoms, or it can cause itching, swelling, burning, aching, throbbing pain and in worse case scenarios, it can cause discolouration on the skin, bleeding, clotting and ulceration. While it mostly occurs in the legs, it can also occur in the buttocks or vulva area and also within the pelvis as well.

Why does it cause problems in pregnancy?

While varicose veins are often seen in older people, it often start to develop problems with varicose veins in their pregnancy. This occurs because1:
1)      Hormones – the surge in hormones helps the development of varicose veins because it dilates the blood vessels to help accommodate the increased blood volume that is required in pregnancy
2)      Foetus – the growing foetus in the abdominopelvic cavity causes increased pressure on the veins in the pelvis and lower limbs increasing the risk of valve failure
3)      Blood volume – the increase the blood volume causes increase central venous pressure and can also contribute the valve failure and varices forming
4)      Multiple pregnancies – the more pregnancies a woman has, the more cumulative stress on the veins and the potential worsening of varicose veins over time

Do they go away after pregnancy?

For the women whose varicose veins developed during pregnancy, these will often subside within 3-4 months after birth. But for some women, who had varicose veins prior to pregnancy, these often do not resolve, may worsen, and may require treatment if they cause symptoms.

Can I prevent varicose veins from developing?

Unfortunately, there is nothing that has been found, to significantly prevent then development of varicose veins in pregnancy. Compression stockings were touted to be a potential success, but have since been found to be only helpful in alleviating symptoms effectively2.

1)      Australian Government, Department of Health, Pregnancy care guidelines, Part I: Common conditions during pregnancy, Varicose veins,
2)      Thaler, E, Huch, R, Huch, A, Zimmermann, R, 2001, Compression stockings prophylaxis of emergent varicose veins in pregnancy: a prospective randomised controlled study’, Swiss Medical Weekly, 131:659-662.

Are you concerned about your spider veins or varicose veins?

23 May 2021

Are you concerned about your spider veins or varicose veins?

Photo 214265712 / Spider Veins © Pongsak Deethongngam |

Photo 88916434 / Spider Veins © Zlikovec |

What are they?

Spider veins are small dilated veins just below the skin, most commonly on the legs. These are mostly red, purple, or with a bluish tinge. Varicose veins are deeper and bigger. They are often green or purplish-blue. Spider veins are often just unsightly but do not cause any significant symptoms. Varicose veins are often unsightly with bumps or small bulges on the surface of the skin if they are significant, but they can be subtle and not visible early in their formation. They can cause itching, aching, pain and in worse cases, changes in the colour of the skin, skin irritation and ulceration.

How will I know if I only have spider veins or varicose veins as well?

An ultrasound to look at the blood flow in the veins can be organised to determine the severity of the problem.


Depending on the severity of varicose veins, they may need to be removed to alleviate the symptoms or to prevent complications. This can be done as a clinic-based ablation procedure or it may need an operation. If you have varicose veins and spider veins, varicose veins need to be treated first. If you treat spider veins first when you have varicose veins, the treatment will be futile, as the spider veins will return. Spider veins alone often don’t need to be treated. But many people wish to have them treated to improve appearance.


Sclerotherapy is a procedure to inject a liquid solution into the spider veins. This solution then irritates the walls of the veins causing them to collapse and constrict. It eventually forms a fibrous cord which the body breaks down and then the vein disappears. This procedure can be done in a clinic and can be repeated to improve the appearance of the legs.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding spider veins or varicose veins, please talk to your doctor.