Gestational Diabetes and Varicose Veins: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Pregnancy is a beautiful time in a woman’s life. But it’s also hard work and comes with its fair share of side effects like nausea, swelling and fatigue. More serious side effects of pregnancy may also include gestational diabetes and varicose veins, Gestational diabetes affects between 1 and 14 percent of U.S. pregnancies each year and develops when the body is no longer able to respond effectively to insulin. Varicose veins affect up to 40 percent of pregnant women and occur when higher volumes of blood (commonly produced during pregnancy) put extra pressure on the blood vessels. Like gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced varicose veins typically recede after birth.

Gestational diabetes and your pregnancy

Gestational diabetes occurs in the second half of pregnancy and goes away after birth. Your doctor will give you a glucose screening test between weeks 24 and 28 (sooner if you’re at high risk) as part of your well baby visits. High blood sugar levels associated with gestational diabetes can damage blood vessels, which can lead to varicose veins.

You’re more likely to get gestational diabetes if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are of African American, Asian, Hispanic or Native American descent
  • Had higher than normal blood sugar levels before pregnancy
  • Have a family member with diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure 
  • Are older than 25

Varicose veins and your pregnancy

If you are pregnant and struggling with painful, unsightly varicose veins, it’s important to keep your legs elevated when sitting. If you need to stand for any length of time, try resting one foot on a low stool and alternate legs. These actions, along with regular, low-impact physical activity, will help keep your blood flowing and improve circulation. 

You’re less likely to get varicose veins during pregnancy if you:

  • Keep your legs moving while sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time
  • Keep your legs elevated above your heart while lying down
  • Incorporate daily low-impact exercise
  • Sleep on your left side 
  • Wear maternity support stockings

If you are pregnant or struggling with the painful or uncomfortable side effects of gestational diabetes and/or varicose veins, talk to the skilled team at Carolina Vein Specialists. We offer skilled treatment for varicose veins in Greensboro and Winston-Salem. Call 336-218-8346 to schedule an appointment.