Body Image Carnival – Embarassed By My Leg

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I was busy. I was working a physically demanding job 20-30 hours a week as well as finishing my last year of a BSc in Nursing – requiring me to do 24-36 hours per week of a clinical rotation.

Partway through the pregnancy, I began to develop varicose veins in my left leg. The first ones didn’t look bad and didn’t hurt.

Then they began to get worse.

By my third trimester, I was wearing compression stockings and hoping that the unsightly veins would disappear when I delivered. Thankfully, they mostly did.

I became unexpectedly pregnant with my son when my daughter was just one year old. My first symptom was a juicy varicose vein running across my thigh that made me say to myself – “Hey! I haven’t seen one of those since … oh no!” – and run out to buy a pregnancy test! During my second pregnancy, my veins got much worse much more quickly. Thanks to some incorrectly-fitted stockings, by mid-second trimester I was in agony every time I stood, dissolved into a crying ball from the pain every night when I removed them to shower, and my leg was mangled – my ankle/foot was lumpy and purple, behind my knee was a network of throbbing, bulging veins, and they extended into my groin. It was not pretty. When I attended a Vascular Clinic to seek diagnosis for a superficial blood clot that I developed, the doctor said something along the lines of, “Well, the good news is that even if a piece of the clot were to break off, your veins are so twisty-turny that it wouldn’t make into your deep vein system.” Um, I suppose that’s good?

After beginning on a homeopathic vein remedy, the pain lessened significantly and the swelling became more mild. After I gave birth, the change was even more dramatic.

But my leg is still ugly. I struggle with feeling like it makes me look like an old woman.

I’m 26 years old.

I not only have a stretch-marked belly, but stretch marks behind my knee where the varicose veins bulged out so dramatically and quickly – and there’s no one-piece bathing suit that can hide them!

I have two completely different looking legs. As we come to summertime, I struggle with how bizarre my legs and feet will look once I break out my Birkenstock and skirts/shorts. Will people wonder why one ankle looks bruised? Will people notice at all?

I will likely need to wear some sort of compression hose for the rest of my life in order to prevent my varicose-vein prone legs from getting worse. That’s a lot of years. Years of uncomfortable, unsightly, WARM support hose – likely at least over-the-knee, if not thigh-high.

I knew my body would change once I was privileged to grow a life within me; I knew my stomach wouldn’t be the same, I knew my breasts were likely to droop, I knew I was likely to experience some perineal tearing and maybe even some incontinence.

I had no clue that I would have to deal with varicose veins.

This post is participating in the Body Image Carnival being hosted by Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! and MamanADroit who will be posting articles on themes pertaining to body image all week! Make sure you check out their blogs everyday between April 12-18 for links to other participants’ posts as well as product reviews, a giveaway, and some links to research, information and resources pertaining to body image.


  1. It is very hard to accept every aspect of your body. But in the case of body image, that is what has to be done. It is a bummer, but everyone has something they would like to change. Unfortunately wishing things were different just wastes time and energy, when you could be focusing on more enjoyable things. I remember working at a nursing home and a 90yo woman was refusing to drink Ensure (she was 84#) because she didn’t want to get fat. I just don’t want anyone to live their WHOLE life wishing their body was different than it is. I remember the day that I looked at my ‘imperfections’ in the mirror and decided I was just going to embrace them all. My whole body, as is. It is a liberating feeling.

  2. Melodie says:

    This is so raw and real Kim.

    Varicose veins run in my family although I wonder if they are only hereditary from one’s mother’s side because it’s my dad’s side who has them and so far I don’t. All my aunts and my dad’s mom have very bad varicose veins. I worried as a child my legs would look that way too. So far I only have a few spider veins. This was a really eye opening piece for me because I didn’t know pregnancy could give you varicose veins either. I always thought it was age and that I just needed to wait to hit 40 or something and they’d appear. Maybe it’s different for different people though.

    Anyway. Thank you so much for participating in the carnival. I wish I could better relate at this point but more than anything I think you’ve taught a number of women who read this about the reality of varicose veins and maybe to mentally prepare themselves for the possibility.

  3. kim says:

    Jennifer – yeah, I still have to come to terms with the way my leg looks, for sure. But I do feel like I’ve accepted the *rest* of my body pretty well!

    Melodie – I don’t know how they’re inherited! My dad definitely suffers from varicose veins (as did his mom), but apparently my maternal grandmother developed varicose veins and clots during pregnancy. Not sure which side I got them from!! And while I’d heard that you could get them, I had no IDEA to the extent you could get them!! I hope my story will be helpful to everyone :)

  4. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  5. […] Embarrassed by My Leg at Kim Through The Looking Glass […]

  6. Claire says:

    My mother also got varicose veins through pregnancy. Apparently I was the one that made them as bad as they are now, her third child.

    I’ve had 2 kids and pregnant with my 3rd, so far my veins are fine.

  7. Amber says:

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with this, it can’t be fun. With pregnancy and childbirth, in my experience, it’s never the things you expect that trip you up. It’s always something out of left field. :(

  8. kim says:

    Claire – yeah, they definitely got worse after my second pregnancy! I’m glad you’ve managed to avoid them!

    Amber – it’s true, hey? We know all about the “will probably happen”s … it’s the “this happens randomly and you’ve probably never met someone who has experienced it”s that are he issue!!

  9. I’m sorry to hear that, Kim, but you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 80 million Americans have varicose veins or a related venous disease. I work for Vein Clinics of America and we hear this all the time. Hormones from pregnancy cause varicose veins to be more noticeable and painful and there’s a common misconception that you have to wait until you’re finished having children to get treatment.

    Treatment usually can not be done while pregnant, but can be right after. Most of the time, once the baby comes and the extra weight and pressure is off, the pain is lessened which makes mom think they’re gone… until baby number 2 comes along. Or they get worse on their own.

    Varicose veins are progressive so they will get worse over time if they aren’t treated. Removing them surgically (also known as stripping) is not a one-time-only procedure because varicose veins are a chronic problem plagued with new growth in many places in the leg. Repeated surgery is not a solution for a recurrent problem.

    The smaller veins are usually treated with Sclerotherapy, which is a micro-injection procedure that doesn’t require surgery. But, the smaller varicose veins can be a sign of a larger problem. There’s also a procedure called Endovenous Laser Treatment (ELT) which is a quick, minimally invasive laser treatment. It closes the larger vein and the blood that was circulating through it is naturally re-routed to other healthy veins.

    I’m not a doctor so I can’t give you any medical advice but you should look into doing something before they get more noticeable and painful. Depending on your insurance company and your location, it’s possible that your treatment could be covered by your insurance. The best way to find out is to schedule a consultation with one of the doctors. You can set that up by calling 877-304-8033.

    It’s great to see your honesty about this subject because there are so many people going through the same thing. So, thank you.

    I hope this helps–gotta stay healthy for the little ones!

  10. kim says:

    Thanks, Jessie!!! I figure sometime later this year I’ll head back to my doc and ask what we can do. They’re definitely still there!!!

  11. […] kim through the looking glass » Blog Archive » Body Image Carnival – Embarassed By My Leg – view page – cached By kim ( April 11, 2010 at 8:08 pm) · Filed under Uncategorized, body image, pregnancy, thrombophlebitis Tweets about this link Topsy.Data.Twitter.User[‘veinclinics’] = {“location”:”Downers Grove, IL”,”photo”:””,”name”:”VeinClinicsofAmerica”,”url”:””,”nick”:”veinclinics”,”description”:”For 29 years, Vein Clinics of America has specialized in all aspects of varicose vein disease from spider veins to large ropey varicose veins to leg ulcers.”,”influence”:””}; veinclinics: “Interesting blog post from a woman suffering from varicose veins after pregnancy. It's very common. ” 1 day ago view tweet retweet Filter tweets […]

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