Pregnant women don’t often speak about vulvar varicosities, or vulva varicose veins. But they should. It is estimated that between 4 percent and 10 percent of women will develop vulvar varicose veins during pregnancy, although the actual figure is most likely to be much higher with many women not developing any symptoms, or being too embarrassed to discuss the symptoms with their doctor.
What is vulvar varicosities?
To understand this, lets first look at how varicose veins are caused. When vein valves, or vein walls, become damaged they can lead to Chronic Venous Insufficiency, or CVI. When this occurs, blood is not able to flow back up to the heart and it begins to reflux or pool, forming twisted, enlarged vessels you know as varicose veins.
CVI can happen for many reasons (see: varicose vein causes) with the most common being age, family history, and hormonal changes.
Vulvar varicosities 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 varicose veins.
Symptoms of vulvar varicosities
Not all women with vulvar varicosities will be able to see them. Some women will have visible veins around the vulva or inner thigh. Yet others will not show any visible signs but they will experience pain.
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 gets worse after standing, sexual activity, or physical activity.
- Swelling or itchiness around the vulva.
- An increase in urination.
Tips on treating the symptoms of vulvar varicosities
The good news about vulvar varicose veins during pregnancy is that they are likely to go away within a few days of giving birth. In the meantime, here are 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 are thought to 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: ice should not be held on the area for longer than 30 minutes to 1 hour. Ice can reduce the blood flow needed for your body to heal.
- Aromatherapy – some aromatherapists suggest using diluted geranium oil in a bath or soaked into a gauze pad as a direct compress to the area.
- Pelvic floor exercises – this will help blood to circulate better in the area and strengthen the supporting tissues around the veins.
- Avoid pressure – avoid squatting for long periods of time, as well as 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 – before gravity has taken effect.
- Rest – it’s important to rest as often as you can. If you’re able to, elevate your legs or lay on your side.
Will the veins rupture during childbirth?
It’s highly unlikely that damaged vein will rupture during childbirth. There have been a few cases of the varicose vein rupturing during pregnancy, however following the above tips, and seeking professional advice, will help prevent this from happening.
The good news is for most women is the varicose veins will resolve on their own after several months post-partum. In some cases, it can take up to a year. For a small percentage of women, however, varicose veins will not shrink or disappear after pregnancy and may require medical treatment.
Seek expert advice
The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive treatment program to treat varicose veins, with non-surgical laser treatment techniques. The benefits of laser treatment to patients are;
- Walk-in walk-out treatment
- 98% success rate
- Extremely effective
- Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
- No general anaesthetic
- Medicare rebates apply
- No downtime or time away from work
To book a consultation and discuss our treatment program, call 1300 535 017. Or, complete the form below to receive a call back from one of The Vein Institute team.