Hi Sandra, I'm currently in my second trimester of pregnancy and struggling with vein problems. I've been suffering from haemorrhoids and just noticed spider veins appearing on my legs. Is there anything I can take during pregnancy to prevent these getting worse? Thanks, Jenny.

Hi Jenny, thanks for your question. Unfortunately, pregnancy and vein changes go hand in hand for many women. During pregnancy a woman's blood volume increases by 40 to 50 per cent and this can put pressure on blood vessels, causing even small veins to swell. The hormone Relaxin softens the ligaments in the pelvis to provide room for the expanding uterus, but it also contributes to the relaxation of blood vessels, meaning pregnant women can become prone to haemorrhoids. There is also a genetic component to vein challenges, so if your parents or grandparents had them, you might be more likely to encounter these at some point.

Fortunately, many women with vein problems in pregnancy will find they improve or resolve entirely 3-4 months after giving birth. Many prefer to take action as soon as the problems arise, due to the discomfort and itchiness that can come from both haemorrhoids and varicose veins. When varicose veins have been established for a long time there are fewer prospects for changing them cosmetically, especially if the veins and their valve have been permanently damaged. If they are only a recent occurrence, or if the valves are only weakened but undamaged, then it is possible to improve the tone of the veins and capillaries.

The best plant medicines for improving vein integrity are Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Butcher's Broom (Ruscus aculeatus) and Arnica (Arnica montana). I find a combination in an oral liquid works best rather than any one plant taken alone.

Horsechestnut's unique, beneficial action is on the vessels of the circulatory system. Clinical trials show it helps to increase the strength and tone of veins, improve circulation and support capillary function to reduce oedema, lymphatic congestion and inflammation.

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Witchhazel is a powerful astringent herb that improves vascular tone. Its anti-inflammatory action helps to reduce the inflammation, pain and swelling associated with varicose veins and haemorrhoids.

Butcher's Broom is one of the most important herbs in the treatment of varicose veins, phlebitis, spider veins, leg ulcers and haemorrhoids. It contains valuable nutrients that help to strengthen and tighten capillaries, enhancing their elasticity and decongesting venous flow. It can also help to calm itching in haemorrhoids and fissures.

Most commonly used for sports injuries, Arnica can also be a wonderful medicine for veins. It promotes blood circulation and decongests venous flow. If using Arnica, always take a professionally compounded extract since certain preparations are not safe to take internally.

Taking the above plant medicines internally can help to treat your current haemorrhoids and spider veins, and also prevent new ones from developing. All of these plants are suitable to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as long as they are professionally compounded and recommended doses are not exceeded. More severe cases of venous insufficiency will require ongoing and long-term treatment over many months, followed by a lower maintenance dose once resolved.

You may also find that topical application of these plants in a cream base can soothe itchiness and discomfort, especially where veins are engorged. Apply a thin layer to the legs or rectal area 2-3 times daily until improvement is achieved. This may be over a period of several weeks or you may experience swift relief, depending on your individual case.

I hope these ideas help to relieve the discomfort of vein problems in pregnancy. If this condition worsens or does not improve, see your leading healthcare professional.

References
Hytten, F. (1985). Blood volume changes in normal pregnancy. Clinics in Haematology, 14(3), 601-12.

Pittler, M. H., & Ernst, E. (2012). Horse chestnut seed extract for chronic venous insufficiency. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 11. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003230.pub4