Pregnancy and you blog

Vulvar varicosities: I have varicose veins where?

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. September 11, 2013

Vulvar varicosities, or varicose veins in the vulva, aren't a common topic among women. Women just don't tend to talk a lot about their vulvas — the outer surface of the female genitalia. And many probably don't even know that they can develop varicose veins down there.

Vulvar varicosities tend to occur most often during pregnancy. The risk of varicose veins is greater during pregnancy because of the increase in blood volume and decrease in how quickly your blood flows from your lower body. This puts pressure on your veins. Vulvar varicosities can occur alone or along with varicose veins of the legs.

If you have vulvar varicosities — and you're lucky — the only way you'll know is because your health care provider tells you. Others are not as lucky. The symptoms of vulvar varicosities include a feeling of fullness or pressure in the vulva area, vulvar swelling and discomfort. In extreme cases, the dilated vessels can look like worms. Long periods of standing, exercise and sex can aggravate the condition.

How can you get relief? When you have varicose veins in your legs, you buy support pantyhose or compression socks to support the distended veins. Unfortunately, there are no socks for vulvas. Years ago when sanitary pads were more like saddles, health care providers would suggest that women wear two pads for support. Today, however, pads are much thinner. You'd have to wear six of them to get any relief.

Instead, consider these tips:

  • Get a support garment. Look for one specifically designed for vulvar varicosities. Some designs also provide support for the lower abdomen and lower back.
  • Change position. If you stand for long periods of time, take frequent breaks to sit.
  • Go for a swim. The water helps lift the baby and improve the blood flow from your pelvis.
  • Elevate your hips slightly when lying down. This can help promote circulation. Placing a folded towel beneath your hips might do the trick.
  • Apply cold compresses to your vulva. This might ease your discomfort.

The good news is that vulvar varicosities likely won't affect your mode of delivery. These veins tend to have a low blood flow. As a result, even if bleeding occurred it could easily be controlled. More good news is that vulvar varicosities typically go away on their own within about six weeks of delivery.

Have you experienced vulvar varicosities? What helped or didn't help you?

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Sep. 11, 2013