Visible Veins During Pregnancy
“Pregnancy is beautiful!” Everybody seems to be telling you this. Meanwhile, you’re looking down at the visible veins in your legs, breasts and even your groin (yep, it's a thing) and thinking, “How did my body not get the memo?”
Don’t worry: enlarged veins during pregnancy are not unusual. And while some of it (genetics, we’re talking to you!) is out of your control, there are a few tricks to deal with those telltale lines.
In this article:
- Why Are My Veins More Visible During Pregnancy?
- How Early Do Veins Typically Show In Pregnancy?
- Can I Prevent Visible Veins During Pregnancy?
- Will My Veins Disappear After Giving Birth?
Why Are My Veins More Visible During Pregnancy?
First, know that we’re not kidding when we say you’re far from alone. A whopping 40% of pregnant women will experience enlarged veins.
Your veins may be slightly enlarged, or they might be affected enough to be classified as varicose. Varicose veins are larger than “spider veins” –– the tiny capillary-like lines you may have seen even when not pregnant –– and may look twisted, bulging and bluish or purple. (Lovely, right?)
Believe it or not, visible veins during pregnancy are a mixed blessing. They’re caused by the increased blood volume your body makes during this time.
By the end of your pregnancy your body will be carrying nearly double the amount of blood it normally does. Because of gravity, as well as the amount and size of veins in your legs, the blood will tend to pool in your lower extremities. This causes the veins to appear enlarged.
However, legs are not the only place you may see visible veins. These wiggly lines can appear on your breasts, your groin area and could also show up around the rectum as hemorrhoids.
Later in your pregnancy, enlarged veins may show up simply due to the weight of your uterus. All that pressure on your lower half restricts blood returning upward and can cause pooling in the veins of your legs. This is also the usual factor when it comes to hemorrhoids.
There are other factors, including heredity –– if your mother or aunt got varicose or visible veins, you may too –– and the fluid-retention effect of pregnancy hormones.
While you’re probably not in love with the look and, depending upon the area, the feel of engorged veins, all that extra blood is doing the important job of carrying nutrients through your body and to your growing baby.
How Early Do Veins Typically Show In Pregnancy?
While blood and fluid volume don’t max out until close to the end of the third trimester, some women experience visibly enlarged veins as early as their 10th week of pregnancy.
If you experience visible veins before the end of your first trimester, the reason is probably increasing fluid plus the effect of hormones, according to pregnancy experts.
Women who notice visible veins later than Week 10 may be seeing these unwanted little invaders due to the weight of the uterus, the total weight of the body, or heredity.
Can I Prevent Visible Veins During Pregnancy?
It’s important to note that not all visible veins during pregnancy are varicose veins. So don’t panic yet: you may simply have slightly more “showy” veins, which will appear to sink back down beneath the skin a short time after you give birth.
However, once you notice visible veins, you’ll want to take steps to minimize the effects. Keeping the situation under control now could mean a lot less heartache later.
According to experts, these are the best ways to prevent visible veins during pregnancy or, if you already have them, to help keep them from getting bigger:
- Exercise regularly. While your expanding belly and hormone-induced fatigue make Ben & Jerry’s on the couch a lot more appealing than three laps around the track, studies show regular exercise can help prevent or treat varicose veins. Try gentle, OB-approved workouts like a 30-minute brisk walk or pregnancy yoga. Shoot for three sessions per week.
- Gain the right amount of weight. We hear you: “But I'm craving X, Y and three helpings of Z – and can I get a doggy bag to go with that?” Sorry, sis: researchers say there's a link between enlarged veins with obesity. Do eat, but try to munch out on healthy lean proteins, veggies, some fruit, nuts and olive oil, experts say.
- If you have a hormonal issue, talk to your doctor. Any hormonal imbalances, including those connected to thyroid disease or diabetes, could potentially throw things out of whack and cause your body’s fluid levels to skyrocket, experts say.
- Don’t cross your legs. Now is not the time to “be a lady” (isn’t that the last thing on your mind right now anyway?). Get comfy and sit or stand with your legs unrestricted so blood can flow easily.
- Don’t stand for long periods. Standing still for too long can cause fluid and blood to pool in your lower legs. Grab a quick walk and a doc-approved smoothie or bottled water instead.
- Massage your skin. Visible pregnancy veins can happen in areas other than your legs. Other key locales are the breasts and the area leading to the groin. Indulge in a weekly massage (ask your partner to help) or give yourself a relaxing little rub-down, concentrating on gently but firmly moving the skin upward on the lower parts of your body, and toward your heart on your upper body.
- Sleep on your left side. Interestingly enough, this position appears to free up the flow of blood in your superior vena cava, an important vein that keeps blood moving toward your heart.
Will My Veins Disappear After Giving Birth?
The answer is...maybe. You might have a complete reversal of the “roadmap” look about four months down the line. Or you could keep slight traces of veins. A smaller percentage of women will have permanent visible veins.
You have a better chance of your veins becoming “invisible” under the skin again after pregnancy if:
- You keep your weight gain in check during pregnancy. (Ask your doctor. NEVER attempt to restrict your intake during pregnancy without your doctor’s approval.)
- You exercise regularly.
- Your veins are visible but your doctor says they're not varicose.
- You do not have a family history of varicose veins.
Even if you have markers for keeping a somewhat veiny appearance post-pregnancy, do not, we repeat, do not sit down with a bag of chips and throw in the towel. You can definitely keep a less than ideal situation from getting worse! Get up, get moving and be sure to ask your doctor what other steps you can take toward minimizing visible pregnancy veins –– we know you can do it!
And while we know it goes without saying, we’ll repeat it anyway. The most beautiful part of pregnancy is about to be in your arms. And that’s something to dance about.
The Mayo Clinic, Varicose veins, 2019.
National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Obesity and lower limb venous disease - The epidemic of phlebesity, 2017.
National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Hormones and Hemodynamics in Pregnancy, 2014.
National Center for Biotechnology Information, Varicose Veins in the Legs: The Diagnosis and Management of Varicose Veins, 2013.
National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Varicose veins, 2011.
National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Blood volume changes in normal pregnancy, 1985.
- Melanie Henson