During my third trimester, I started to notice that my already visible veins —thank you fair skin — looked even more noticeable than the norm. I knew varicose veins might appear during pregnancy, but I was still surprised when I noticed one that extended the length of my upper thigh. But recently I was floored when I learned that varicose veins can even make their way to your lady parts. The wonders of pregnancy, right? But where do vaginal varicose veins come from during pregnancy, and what can you do about them?
“Some women may notice varicosities or veins appearing on the labia and sometimes on the upper inner thigh area as well that look like the varicose veins we associate with being seen on legs," Dr. Katherine Bolt, OB-GYN at Partners in OB-GYN Care at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, tells Romper in an email interview. "They are a result of the increased blood flow to the area and the enlarged pregnant uterus which literally compresses the veins in the pelvis and increases the pressure inside the veins."
Dr. Kerem Bortecen, an endovascular surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates, tells Romper in an email interview that vaginal varicose veins — also known as vulvar varicosities — affect 4 percent of women during pregnancy, most often during the third trimester. "Vulvar varicosities can occur alone or can be associated with other varicose veins in the legs, causing discomfort or swelling in the vulva area, especially with prolonged standing, or during or after intercourse," Bortecen says.
Bolt notes there is also a hormonal effect of pregnancy which causes vasodilation, or increased widening and relaxation of the veins. "All of these things may lead to pelvic congestion symptoms and vulvar varicose veins," she says. General risk factors for varicose veins — not just vulvar — include advancing age, obesity, family history, smoking, history of leg injury, or history of a blood clot in the leg, Bolt says. But she adds that "the good news is, varicosities usually resolve within six weeks of delivery."
However, Bortecen says many women do seek advice for finding relief during pregnancy and for that he has a few tips. "As the condition occurs because of the blood pooling in the veins, wearing support garments will help to relieve the swelling in the vulva area," he says. "Similarly, changing the sitting position frequently during daytime, elevating the hips with additional pillows while in bed, and avoiding lifting heavy objects will help to prevent the blood pooling further in the varicose veins and offer some relief." Other preventative measures include nixing high heels, getting regular exercise, not crossing legs while sitting, reducing sodium intake, drinking plenty of water, and sleeping on your left side to help relieve pressure on the inferior vena cava, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Bortecen says if vaginal varicose veins cause too much discomfort, then a pregnant woman might receive a local injection with a small amount of special solution known as sclerosing agent that can be injected into the veins and help keep them decompressed. He is also quick to point out that the presence of vulvar varicose veins is not a reason to avoid vaginal delivery. "The risks of bleeding from varicose veins of the vulva during delivery is extremely rare and it is easily controlled."
As for getting, err, comfortable, with the idea of vaginal varicose veins, I would imagine that you will find that like many of the things that come with pregnancy — morning sickness, hemorrhoids, and swelling here, there, and everywhere — they will be quickly forgotten once your bundle of joy arrives. And thank goodness for that because who really needs to remember veins in their lady bits?
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