All You Need To Know About Vulvar Varicosities
As the name might suggest, vulvar varicosities are varicose veins that occur around the vulva (female genitalia). An estimated total of around 4-10% of pregnant women has reported experiencing it.
Varicose veins appear when parts of your veins become enlarged, dilated, twisted, or laden with pooling blood. These veins can cause pain, pressure, and discomfort in the affected area. They generally appear blue, red, or skin-coloured and make the skin bulge out. These veins are often seen on legs and feet.
This article will elaborate on a common type of varicose veins seen in pregnant women. Let’s get started.
What Are Vulvar Varicosities?
According to experts, this number remains low because women often avoid reporting this condition. The actual number of women not reporting or not being diagnosed with vulvar varicosities can be relatively high.
The common symptoms of vulvar varicose veins include:
- Swelling of the outer lips of the vagina and related pain
- Visible varicose veins around the vulva, inner thighs, and backside by some women
- Pain around the pelvis that also worsens during extended durations of standing
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pain before and during menstruation
- Need for more frequent urination
- A feeling of fullness or pressure in the vulvar region
- May cause pre-natal anxiety and depression
The visibility of the swollen veins can vary for all. They can also be invisible in some women and often go without producing any symptoms.
What Causes Vulvar Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins can be caused when parts of a vein weaken. This weakness makes it difficult for the body to efficiently circulate blood from your lower body back to the heart. Blood pools causing bulging, protruding, and sometimes painful veins. Aging can also be one of the causes.
Various factors are responsible for causing vulvar varicosities in pregnant women. The chief amongst them are as follows:
- Increased blood volume to the pelvic region
- A decrease in the rate of blood flow from the lower body to the heart
- The changing levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones make the walls of your veins relax and inefficient to pump the blood back up
- Already suffering from pelvic varicose veins
- The weight of the growing baby pressurises the veins and slows the blood from moving away from the pelvic region
How to Identify Vulvar Varicosities?
It is also common for pregnant women to go through this condition without ever knowing about it. Pregnancy makes it challenging to observe and identify the vulva and any changes to it. However, we have a few tips for identifying vulvar varicosities apart from the common symptoms. They include:
- The appearance of twisted or bulging veins out of your skin
- Veins that appear soft and blue or purple
- Pressure or pain in your vulva
- Discomfort while walking
Please remember that these observations are subjective and may vary from person to person. Not all who suffer from vulvar varicosities experience these symptoms.
Diagnosing Vulvar Varicose Veins
When in doubt, it is best to consult and seek help from your doctor. The first step, generally, is to ask you about the symptoms that you experience. Experienced doctors can diagnose the presence of these veins after performing a thorough physical examination. They might also ask you to stand to examine any related swelling.
Doctors might also diagnose vulvar varicose veins using technology such as an ultrasound. It enables doctors to identify these veins and their severity more precisely. An ultrasound test can also help determine the presence of any clotting or blood flowing in the wrong direction.
If conditions appear more complicated than usual, your doctor might also suggest a heart CT scan, Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA), or selective venography.
How Can Vulvar Varicosities Be Treated?
Doctors commonly suggest home-based remedies initially. If these methods work, there is no need to go for further treatment. Here are a few standard things that might be recommended by your doctor in this condition.
- Keeping active and avoid being still for long durations. Walk or change positions after sitting still for a while.
- Apply ice packs old cold compresses to the affected area as directed by your doctor.
- Wear compression garments that can support your pelvic region. They are strategically designed to target gentle compression to your pelvis and lower back, which can help support varicose veins. Your physiotherapist or doctor might also be able to help you with it.
- Avoid squatting. Choose to kneel or sit on a chair either.
- Constipation also increases the pressure on your veins during bowel movements. Avoid it using natural fibres.
- Allow your belly bump to relax forward.
- Try resting when possible and lie on your side for better circulation.
- Avoid strenuous activities such as lifting, pushing, pulling, and even sneezing and coughing. If that is exceptionally unavoidable, provide enough support to your perineum by your hands or a rolled-up cloth.
- Try propping up your hips when lying down to help your blood flow.
For more severe symptoms, your doctor may ask you to:
- Use only small amounts of gentle soap when bathing the vulvar region. Apply the recommended cream after you bathe to relieve the itching.
- Take prescription medication of lower molecular weight if there is a blood clot within the vulvar varicose veins.
In most extreme conditions, your doctor may suggest sclerotherapy. But it is very rare and often not preferred when pregnant.
Can They Be Prevented?
It is difficult to prevent vulvar varicosities during pregnancy. But it can be avoided by encouraging proper blood circulation. Exercising, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding too tight clothes etc. can help reduce the risk of developing vulvar varicosities.
Vulvar varicosities can scare many new mums-to-be. But it is more a condition requiring proper care than panic. If you think you are experiencing any uneasiness down there, do not shy away from consulting your doctor and remember that in most cases the condition eases and disappears within a few weeks after giving birth.