What causes vulvar varicosities during pregnancy? How can I relieve the discomfort?

Answer From Julie A. Lamppa, C.N.M., R.N.

Vulvar varicosities are varicose veins that form at the outer surface of the female genitals, called the vulva. This condition most often affects people who are pregnant. It happens because of an increase in blood flow to the pelvic region during pregnancy. It's also due to slowing of blood flow from the lower part of the body to the heart during pregnancy. Because of that, blood can pool in the vulva — causing vulvar varicosities. Vulvar varicosities can occur alone, or you also may develop varicose veins in your legs.

Vulvar varicosities don't always cause symptoms. When symptoms do happen, they can include:

  • A feeling of fullness or pressure in the vulva
  • Swelling
  • Discomfort

Severe cases of vulvar varicosities are rare, even during pregnancy. But in severe cases, the dilated vessels can bulge. They might look bluish and feel bumpy.

Exercise, sex and standing for a long time may make this condition worse.

To feel relief:

  • Get a support garment. Look for one specifically designed for vulvar varicosities. If you need help finding one, ask your health care provider.
  • Change position. Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time.
  • Elevate your legs. This can help promote circulation.
  • Apply cold compresses to your vulva. This might ease your discomfort.

In most cases, vulvar varicosities don't interfere with a vaginal delivery. These veins tend to have a low blood flow. That means even if they bleed during delivery, it usually can be easily controlled.

Typically, vulvar varicosities that form during pregnancy go away by about six weeks after delivery.


Julie A. Lamppa, C.N.M., R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @JulieLamppa

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July 22, 2022 See more Expert Answers