Pregnant with Vulvar Varicosities and Pelvic Congestion Syndrome
Pregnancy brings many joys — and also challenges. While pregnant, remember to take care of your veins as well.
Pregnancy is a joyful time for women. We all know that during this time, your pregnant body goes through many changes, but did you know that changes also happen in your veins? Many expecting women experience two venous conditions towards the later stages of pregnancy: vulvar varicosities and pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS).
When you’re pregnant, blood surges to the pelvic region to nourish the baby. According to one estimate, the amount of blood circulating in the body increases by a staggering 30 percent to 50 percent. Adding to the stress, pregnancy hormones such as estrogen relax the vein walls. It's no wonder that the tiny valves in the veins cannot pump this excess of blood fast enough, so the blood tends to pool in the vein instead of returning to the heart. This process is the same reason varicose veins form on the legs.
But in PCS, the veins in the lower abdomen, buttocks, and ovaries become distended and painful. In cases of vulvar varicosities, varicose veins form on the vulva, or the outer lips of the vagina. One study estimates vulvar varicosities affect 18 percent to 22 percent of pregnant women. If you are one of those women, you can take measures to ease your discomfort and enjoy a happy pregnancy.
Preventing and Treating PCS and Vulvar Varicosities During Pregnancy
Both conditions can cause dull or sharp pain in the pelvic or vulva region. These include itching, pain during intercourse, and pain that worsens after exercise or sitting or standing all day. Sometimes, you may be able to see swollen, bluish veins on the vulva. A physical examination, an ultrasound, or other imaging tests can diagnose either syndrome.
Fortunately, neither condition will harm your delivery or baby. Because blood pressure is generally low in the area, the risk of bleeding is minimal, and you can deliver vaginally. Around six months after delivery, the swollen veins disappear along with associated discomfort. As such, you won’t require medical treatment — like the kind you would receive for varicose veins — while pregnant.
You can, however, calm your symptoms with several at-home treatments. Always check with your physician first, but these methods have been successful in relieving pain:
Apply Cold Compresses. Cold compresses applied to the vaginal area can reduce swelling and pain. You can consult your doctor to find compresses designed specifically for female anatomy.
Wear Compression Garments. Like compression stockings for varicose veins, compression garments made to gently compress the veins in the pelvis can promote efficient blood flow. You can slip these garments over your underwear.
Stay Active. Sitting or standing for long hours only causes more pooling of the blood in the lower body area. During the day, change position frequently to give your veins a chance to move blood along.
Elevate Your Legs. Propping up your legs encourages blood to flow in the right direction. At night, sleep with a pillow under your legs or hips. Better yet, sleep on your side.
Your doctor may also prescribe hormone therapy to reduce the size of the veins and alleviate pain. If your doctor suspects a blood clot could form in the vulvar varicosities, he or she may prescribe a low-dose blood thinner. Only when the symptoms become acute will your doctor recommend medical treatment to clear away the clogged veins in the vulva region. Such treatments include sclerotherapy or radiofrequency ablation. Coil embolization, a procedure that uses a catheter maneuvered through the vein in the neck to reach the damaged vein, is another therapy for PCS. But unless symptoms persist for more than six months after delivery, medical treatments for both syndromes are rare because of their temporary nature.
Women who’ve experienced vulvar varicosities during one pregnancy are likely to have the same condition during subsequent pregnancies. To lessen the risk of the condition, maintain a healthy weight (excess weight puts even more pressure on the veins), exercise regularly, and wear flat shoes and loose-fitting clothing.
Take Care of Your Veins
Don’t just accept the discomfort of vulvar varicosities and PCS as a normal part of pregnancy. Consult with a vein specialist to ensure the health of your veins — and a smooth pregnancy. The physicians at Center for Vein Restoration have extensive experience in treating venous disorders and will help create a treatment plan that’s tailored to your specific needs. Contact us today for a consultation.