How to Prevent Vulvar Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
Varicose veins on the legs frequently emerge during pregnancy. But there’s another area of the body where they develop, too.
Swollen tangled varicose veins don’t only surface on the legs and feet, although that is where the condition commonly develops. During pregnancy, enlarged veins can grow on the vulva (the outer layer of tissue around the vagina).
One study estimated vulvar varicosities affect between 18 and 22 percent of pregnant women. Between 22 and 34 percent of pregnant women have either vulvar varicose veins or varicose veins elsewhere in the pelvic area. Vulvar varicose veins typically disappear several months after the child’s birth and have no effect on the delivery. However, if you want to prevent vulvar varicosities, you can take some precautions to do so.
How Vulvar Varicosities Develop
Varicose veins on the vulva develop much as they do on the legs and feet. They occur when excess blood meant to nourish the growing fetus overwhelms the one-way valves in the veins, hindering their ability to send blood back to the heart.
At the same time, the amount of blood triples and hormones released during pregnancy relax the vein walls, weakening the walls to the point where they cannot hold the excess blood. Eventually, this pushes the vein outward, causing a visible varicose vein, among other symptoms. Further, the growing fetus puts pressure on the inferior vena cava, a major vein in the pelvis.
In some cases, vulvar varicose veins may be visible. Other symptoms include vulva soreness; a feeling of heaviness or pressure in the vulva; or a pain that worsens after standing for hours, exercise, or sexual intercourse.
Treating and Preventing Vulvar Varicosities
A physical examination or an ultrasound may be needed to diagnose vulvar varicosities. Your doctor will want to rule other causes, such as pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS). This condition is characterized by multiple varicose veins in the pelvic region that cause chronic pain. Though extremely rare, your doctor may also check for a blood clot.
Medical treatment for vulvar varicose veins is unnecessary because the veins recede soon after delivery. If the condition persists long after the birth, then you may seek treatment to remove the swollen veins. The physician may use a procedure similar to ones used to treat varicose veins on the legs. Fortunately, you can make the symptoms less noticeable during pregnancy by following some at-home measures:
Elevate your legs whenever possible
Apply cold compresses to the vulva
Don’t sit or stand for long periods, and change positions frequently
Prop up your hips when you sleep so blood doesn’t pool in the pelvis
Sleep on your left side to alleviate pressure on the vena cava vein
Wear compression garments designed for the pelvic area to boost blood flow
Switch to flat shoes
Avoid activities that strain the pelvis, such as weightlifting
Use a gentle soap in the vulva region
Some pregnant women find relief by applying witch hazel to the vulva. Alternatively, a topical corticosteroid cream can relieve the inflammation. However, always check with your doctor before using any medications during pregnancy.
To prevent vulvar varicosities, exercise, monitor your weight and eat healthy foods. Add more fiber to your diet to prevent constipation, which can stress the abdominal veins.
Have a Happy Pregnancy
Vulvar varicosities and varicose veins on the legs are common during pregnancy. Yet you can enjoy a pain-free pregnancy with non-surgical treatments. Center for Vein Restoration doctors can devise a treatment plan to help you through pregnancy without the discomfort of varicose veins. Contact us today for a consultation.