What to Know About Spider Veins During Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 20, 2022
5 min read

During your first trimester, your body begins to change rapidly. Pregnancy will change your body in new and exciting ways, but some changes are less than desirable. Spider veins may appear during your pregnancy's beginning, middle, or end. They are primarily a cosmetic concern, but that doesn't mean they aren't frustrating to deal with. 

Spider veins, known in medical terms as telangiectasia, appear when small blood vessels are dilated. Spider veins typically appear on your legs and are small, less than 2 mm in diameter. The veins are most noticeable on the thighs, legs, and ankles. Spider veins can be red, purple, or blue. They may look like linear streaks, starburst patterns, or branch out freely. Pregnancy may cause spider veins to appear.

Spider veins and varicose veins can both appear during pregnancy, but they are not the same thing. Unlike spider veins, varicose veins are more prominent, bulging veins that can be 4 to 5 mm in diameter and are dark blue. 

Varicose veins are often more painful than spider veins. They can also be linked to severe other vein disorders. Varicose veins require a more involved treatment plan, unlike spider veins, which are typically treated for cosmetic purposes only.

During pregnancy, your hormones change, and your body contains greater quantities of blood. These changes cause tiny red or blue veins to appear on your body. Spider veins can appear on your face, neck, arms, belly, and legs. They don't appear all over your body, but rather, typically in one area. They are most common during the first half of your pregnancy. 

After your baby is born, the redness tends to fade away. In some cases, though, spider veins can last after childbirth. If that's the case, you can talk to your doctor about options for getting rid of them.

Spider veins occur when tiny, one-way valves in the veins weaken. When they weaken, some blood flows backward and stays in the vein. This extra blood puts pressure on the walls of your vein, causing it to bulge and become visible on the surface of your skin. 

People who stand or sit for long periods are more likely to get spider veins. There also might be a genetic risk for spider veins. Regardless, spider veins become more common during pregnancy.

Spider veins rarely have accompanying symptoms. They're a common, mild variation of varicose veins. The primary concern of those with spider veins is typically their appearance. 

That being said, in rare cases, spider veins may cause a dull discomfort or mild burning sensation in your legs. You can talk to your doctor about treatment options if you start to have these symptoms. However, insurance companies don't tend to cover spider vein treatment because they deem it to be a cosmetic procedure.

Laser treatment is the most common option if you opt to get your spider veins taken care of. This treatment is called selective photothermolysis and is designed to avoid causing damage to the outer part of your skin. It can be done in your doctor's office. 

The treatment works by using a laser to obliterate the affected blood vessel. This type of treatment can be used for spider veins up to 1 mm in size. 

After treatment, avoid rigorous activities like jogging for 24 hours. You'll also need to avoid direct sunlight on the treated areas for a little while. Your doctor should tell you how to care for the treated area to prevent infection or other problems.

An alternative treatment is sclerotherapy. This treatment uses a needle to inject sclerosing agents into your vein. The injection contains chemical irritants that make your vein seal off.

There are some self-care tips you can do at home to help prevent spider veins during pregnancy. These tips can help prevent new spider veins from appearing, but they won't get rid of the ones you may already have. 

Things to try at home include: 

  • Exercising regularly
  • Elevating your legs
  • Getting up and walking around often
  • Taking breaks from standing for long periods
  • Avoiding long periods in hot baths

Compression socks. These types of socks or stockings apply pressure to your legs and help move blood back to your heart. They're great at reducing swelling in your lower legs and reducing your risk for blood clots. Compression socks don't reduce existing visible leg veins, though.

Maintain a healthy pregnancy weight. Extra body weight can make it harder for your veins to move blood back to your heart. By staying active, eating healthy foods, and maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight, you are more likely to prevent new spider veins from forming.

Rest your legs. Take the pressure off your legs by putting your feet on an elevated surface when sitting. This helps your blood flow more easily back to your heart. During pregnancy, your feet and ankles are likely to swell. Keeping them elevated also reduces the pressure that builds during the day. 

If you are feeling discomfort in your legs and you think it may be related to your spider veins, you should talk to your doctor. If you notice your spider veins have become swollen, red, tender, or warm to the touch, that may be a sign of a blood clot. 

Sores or rashes on your legs or near your ankle may call for a visit to the doctor. A drastic change in the appearance of your spider veins is a good reason to talk to your doctor. If the skin on your ankle or calf changes color, there may be underlying issues or a burst vein.

Spider veins are typically nothing to worry about. They’re a common part of pregnancy and changing hormones. They typically go away on their own after childbirth, and you can also implement home methods to prevent more spider veins from appearing.