I’ve got a lot of pressure … down there…varicose veins where? Vulvar varicosities or varicose veins of the vulva during pregnancy is not a common topic of discussion between pregnant women, but it should be. Estimated to affect between 4% and 10% of women during pregnancy, the actual figure for vulvar varicosities is most likely to be much higher with many women not reporting or being diagnosed, being too embarrassed to discuss the symptoms with their health care professional.
What are the symptoms of Vulvar Varicosities?
- Varicose veins of the vulva, known as ‘vulvar varicosities’, is the swelling of the outer lips of the vagina which is caused by the blood pooling in the veins. Besides not looking very attractive, vulvar varicosities can feel uncomfortable and make the vulva ache and feel painful.
- Some women will have visible varicose veins around the vulva, inner thighs and backside but others will not show any visible signs yet exhibit other symptoms like pain.
- The most common symptoms women experience is pain around the pelvis and / or lower back usually describing it as a dull ache. The pain often gets worse through the day as both standing or sitting for long periods of time exacerbate the condition.
- Pain can also occur during sexual intercourse as well as before and during menstruation.
- Varicose veins in the pelvis can also cause the need for more frequent urination.
- Finally, the emotional aspect of the condition can be an additional contributing factor in pre-natal anxiety and depression which is all the reason we need to talk about it.
It’s important to note that vulvar varicosities are unlikely to cause any problems for the birth process and typically disappear on their own within about six weeks after the birth of your baby. These veins have a low blood flow so even if bleeding occurred it could easily be controlled. As always, for peace of mind and making sure that your health is in no way compromised seeing your health care professional should always be your first step, especially as you are now responsible for that precious life developing in your tummy.
What causes Vulvar Varicosities?
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. In turn, veins swell into purple/blue bulges, similar to the ones that can develop in the legs.
Here’s how it all happens due to normal changes that occur to your body during pregnancy:
- Our veins carry blood back to the heart from all over the body. When the blood flow is against gravity, tiny valves within the veins open and close to stop the blood from flowing backwards. Sometimes, however, these valves become weak and this allows the blood to flow backward and to pool in the veins, causing varicose veins. You are familiar with varicose veins forming in the legs but these veins can also form in the pelvic area, the uterus, ovaries, vulva and vagina. Varicose veins in the pelvis are often referred to as pelvic congestion syndrome or pelvic venous flow disorder.
- Increased blood supply to the area swells the veins.
- The pressure of the growing baby slows the blood from moving away from the area, hence the pooling effect.
What can you do about Vulvar Varicosities?
There’s a number of things you can do to minimize the symptoms of vulvar varicosities:
- Avoid being still for long periods of time, keep active and keep moving, walk, and change positions when sitting or lying down. Go for a swim, the water will help lift the baby and improve the blood flow from your pelvis.
- Lie down to rest as often as practical. Lying on your side is best.
- Avoid any squatting, kneel or sit on a chair.
- Avoid activities that cause straining such as lifting, pushing, pulling, sneezing or coughing (inc. uncontrollable laughter). When you cannot avoid any of these activities, use your hands or a rolled towel to help support your perineum.
- Avoid constipation which will increase the pressure on your veins during bowel movements. Make sure your bowel motions are regular, soft and easy to pass.
- Some tips from Mater Mother’s hospital include maintaining the curve in lower back and leaning forward from the hips,
- Allowing your abdomen to relax forward
- Getting a small footstool may enhance position (and in general assist with bowel movement) - check out the hilarious Squatty Potty video here of the company featured on Shark Tank and Dr. Oz. – just be careful not to laugh too hard, which makes point 4 above even more relevant!
- Practice your pelvic floor exercises regularly to make sure your muscles are strong. There’s a great video by Shira Kramer of BeActive Physio here.
- Natural remedies for vulvar varicosities include both topical and oral solutions but as always please err on the side of caution and check with your health care practitioner before trying any new dietary supplements, oils, herbs or compresses:
- Witch hazel can be applied topically to reduce inflammation and swelling and one popular way to do this is saturate a maxi pad with witch hazel and wear it at night. Aloe Vera is another topical application that is said to be safe but is not to be take orally as it can cause contractions.
- The antioxidant in berries like blueberries, strawberries and bileberries, anthocyanin can improve blood vessel function and decrease blood pressure which may in turn provide relief.
- Another natural remedy widely prescribed for the relief of symptoms of vulvar varicosities is for an ice or cold compresses to be applied to the vulval area. Cold therapy is one of the oldest therapies to treat swelling, irritation or injury which is why SRC Relief Femme-Eze provides a reusable nontoxic Hot and Cold Perineum Ice Pack. Contoured to the female anatomy it can be used for vulvar varicosities and other conditions during pregnancy and postpartum.
- When you have varicose veins in your legs, support stockings or compression socks are very widely recommended to support the swollen veins. Unfortunately, there are no such garments for vulvas or are there? Years ago when sanitary pads were much, much thicker, health care providers suggested that women wear a few pads for support. Today, this simply wouldn’t work, as it would take the entire pack of the modern ultra slim pads to make a difference. Not practical, comfortable or necessary, there are more suitable alternatives and many physiotherapists and health care professionals recommend using compression support garments to assist in reducing the symptoms of vulvar varicosities. Many women get the best results when they put on these compression garments before getting out of bed in the morning before gravity takes effect. Support garments like SRC Pregnancy Shorts and Leggings allow for “24-hour wearability” due to their gentle compression and hence deliver pain relief around the clock. Here’s what just some SRC Health customers had to say:
“I find SRC Pregnancy Shorts extremely comfortable to wear. The material is silky soft and fits discretely under my clothes. I wore the garment in both cold and hot climates and it was fine to wear all day in the hot weather. The garment offers fabulous support and relief from the pain associated with vulval varicosities. I found that if I forgot to wear it, by the end of the day my varicose veins were throbbing and pronounced. This does not happen when I put the garment on in the morning and wear it all day. So far I haven’t had any more veins appear and am hoping that with continued daily use of SRC Pregnancy Shorts I won’t get any more." – J. Parker
“Despite being a relatively healthy and active individual, my second pregnancy has been met with unforeseen complications from the very beginning. The most physically uncomfortable and emotionally stressful condition came around the 5th month of pregnancy when we realized that our daughter was sitting so low that I began to have significant swelling around the upper thighs and vulvar varicosities as a result. These conditions were painful and prevented me from performing daily operations at work and at home - with a sudden switch to a sedentary lifestyle within days. The doctors recommended a maternity support band to help relieve some of the pressure. I bought some that had groin support bands to help with the pressure. These were positively reviewed to aid in managing discomfort surrounding varicosities. While they provided limited relief, I still experienced discomfort and ultimately thought that they were cumbersome to manoeuvre and impractical to wear at work. During my research into vulvar varicosities, two items were mentioned to help with compression. One was the band that I had already tried, and the other was the SRC Pregnancy Shorts. I received the SRC Pregnancy Shorts a few days later, much faster than the anticipated 7-10 business days for international shipments. The difference that these shorts made was literally night and day. The material was comfortable and durable - perfect to wear under existing clothes without being hot for the entire day, and already withstanding several washes. The compression was comfortably firm without feeling like it was going to cut off circulation, and the support it offered throughout my entire pelvic region was indescribable. I can't even express in words how much these shorts have helped with pain management in such a short amount of time. I honestly think that was the first time in about 2 months that I could move uninhibited, and that freedom meant so much. The reassurance that I'll be able to last the next 2 months means EVERYTHING. If anybody else suffers from similar medical conditions, I think that the SRC Pregnancy product line is an essential and worthwhile investment. I immediately went back and ordered the SRC Pregnancy Leggings in the same size, and can proudly say that I'm a loyal advocate for SRC Health products. Thank you so much!” – D. Mai
When buying a support garment look for one that specifically incorporates a design that addresses vulvar varicosities. Compression garments like SRC Pregnancy Shorts and Leggings not only deal with vulvar varicosities but also provide support for:
- the lower abdomen and
- lower back as well as
- encourage good venous return and
- assist with pelvic girdle pain so prevalent during pregnancy.
Backed by a 100% Money Back Guarantee they are definitely worth trying especially when compared to to the prices of 'stand alone' vulvar varicosities support garments and braces that range from $80-$120 yet deliver none of the other benefits for their wearer like the SRC pregnancy range of garments.