Pregnant women don’t often speak about vulvar varicosities or vulvar varicose veins. But they should. Between 4 and 10% of women will develop them during pregnancy, though the actual figure is likely much higher as many women don’t develop symptoms or are too embarrassed to discuss the symptoms with their doctor.
So, to learn more about vulvar varicosities and how to manage them, read on.
What are vulvar varicosities?
To understand this, let’s first look at what causes varicose veins. When vein valves or vein walls become damaged, it can lead to Chronic Venous Insufficiency (AKA CVI). When CVI occurs, blood has trouble flowing back up to the heart and begins to reflux or pool, forming the twisted, enlarged vessels you know as varicose veins.
CVI can happen for many reasons. The most common are age, family history, and hormonal changes.
As for vulvar varicosities, these are varicose veins on the outer surface of the female vulva. The vulva is home to a wide range of small and large blood vessels. During pregnancy, increased blood flow and pressure on the genitals and lower body can cause vulvar veins to become varicose.
What are the symptoms of vulvar varicose veins?
Not all women with vulvar varicosities will be able to see them or feel them. But, others will have visible bulging veins around the vulva or inner thigh. Additionally, some women might experience pain while others might get lucky.
If you don’t have any physical side effects, here are a few symptoms you can look out for:
- Pain around the pelvis or lower back, usually described as a dull ache.
- A feeling of heaviness or fullness of the vulva.
- Any pain in the vulva that worsens after standing, sexual activity, or physical activity.
- Swelling or itchiness around the vulva.
- An increase in urination.
Are vulvar varicose veins dangerous?
Any unusual changes in your body can be concerning, especially during pregnancy. The good news is that while there’s a small chance of bleeding during childbirth, there’s virtually no risk of any complication or damage due to these varicosities.
How do I manage the symptoms of varicose veins of the vulva?
While vulvar varicose veins that form during pregnancy aren’t dangerous in most cases, they can still be uncomfortable. So, here are a few safe ways you can treat the symptoms and prevent further damage to the veins:
- Vitamins – some vitamins such as bioflavonoids, garlic and vitamin C may help strengthen the connective tissue around the veins.
- Ice fingers – cold compresses may give temporary relief. A trick some women use after giving birth is filling a rubber glove with cold water and ice. Using the glove as an ice pack can help reduce swelling and relieve pain. Please note: don’t apply the ice pack to the area for longer than 30 minutes. Ice can reduce the blood flow needed for your body to heal.
- Aromatherapy – some aromatherapists suggest a few drops of geranium oil in a bath. Or soaked into a gauze pad as a direct compress to the area.
- Pelvic floor exercises – these will improve blood flow around the area and strengthen the supporting tissues around the veins.
- Avoid pressure – avoid squatting for long periods. Also, avoid pushing or straining when using the bathroom.
- Supportive underwear – many women also find that full leg support stockings can provide some relief. You can also try supportive underwear (with a gusset) or bike pants with double sanitary pads inside. Tip: you will get the best results if you put the garments on before getting out of bed in the morning. I.e., before gravity takes effect.
- Rest – it’s important to rest as often as you can. And if you can, elevate your legs or lay on your side.
- Sleep on your left side and use a pregnancy pillow.
- Keep well hydrated throughout the day.
- Avoid wearing high heels.
- Avoid staying in one position for too long. Go for a short walk or shift your weight to keep blood flowing.
Learn more about managing varicose vein symptoms here.
Will vulvar varicose veins rupture during childbirth?
It’s highly unlikely that a damaged vein will rupture during childbirth. But, there have been a few cases of a varicose vein rupturing during pregnancy. If, however, you follow the above tips and seek professional advice, you’ll minimise the chances of this happening.
Will vulvar varicose veins go away on their own?
In most cases, yes. Like most varicose veins that form during pregnancy, vulvar varicose veins will fade away 6-8 weeks after you give birth and generally aren’t a long-term concern.
But if they don’t and are still troubling you, it’s best to seek specialist care.
To that end, feel free to call us on 1300 535 017 if you have any questions or to book a consultation.
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