One of my best features has always been my legs. I've never had much going for me with my boobs or bum, but my stems? Kick butt. I'm an abnormally tall woman, a runner, and reasonably slim. Until I had kids. All of a sudden, these painful purple veins popped up on my calves and ankles. The doctor told me they're varicose veins, and I'd need laser surgery. Funny thing is, I didn't just get them in my legs — vulvar varicosities are a thing. What are vulvar varicosities, you never wanted to ask? Let me tell you.
A varicose vein is a vein that bulges outward or becomes spider-like in appearance due to the buildup of blood in the vein over a long period of time. They are most common in the legs and feet, due to the pooling of blood, and can range from purely cosmetic to painful and potentially dangerous, according to The Mayo Clinic. During pregnancy, the increase in blood volume, particularly to the genitalia, causes a similar pooling of blood in the vulvar area — the external area of the body surrounding the vagina — and the veins begin to bulge and expand, causing pressure or pain, according to The International Journal of Gynecological Pathology.
Let me tell you what it feels like. It's like someone made your vagina into a balloon and filled it with all of the blood in your body. You have to walk around with this balloon between your legs, and all you want to do is keep your hand cupped on your crotch, but no, you can't, because that's not "socially acceptable behavior." I guarantee you, if a dude ever had a varicosity on his junk, he'd find someone to follow him around while lovingly cupping his man pebbles so that his own hands were free. The only relief I felt when I had them was to lie back, put a pillow under my hips, and ice my vagina like it was the tender, tender knee of some fancy athlete. Sure, I probably looked ridiculous at holiday functions propped up like I was about to get my cervix checked, but who the hell cares at that point, right? (OK, I never did this in front of everyone, but I was sorely tempted.)
Oh, and did I mention that mine developed at week 16, and lasted for the remainder of my pregnancy? That's right, ladies. I had 24 weeks of that nonsense to deal with. And strangely enough? Sex didn't hurt it. It actually relieved the pain. Counter pressure on the area felt really, really good. My husband got extra lucky during that pregnancy.
I spoke with Physician Assistant Deondra Thomas to ask her about vulvar varicosities. She tells Romper, "It's just like any other varicose vein on your body, but it's usually secondary to pregnancy, and unlike the ones on your ankles. They typically self-resolve within a few weeks of delivering." Thomas notes that they're rarely cause for concern, and vaginal delivery can proceed as planned. "Patients note that they get a lot of relief from cold compresses, elevation, and squeezing a pillow between their thighs to provide pressure against the affected area." Side note: I cannot believe I didn't think to use a pillow.
Vulvar varicosities are painful, annoying, and really make you wish women wore jock straps, but they do go away, thank all of the gods. If they're really bothering you, talk to your provider about possible interventions. Otherwise, pillow city, party of one.
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