What are Vulvar Varicosities?
Pregnancy can cause varicose veins on not only the legs, but on the genital area as well.
Pregnancy increases the risk of developing varicose veins in the legs, but it’s also been linked to venous insufficiency in another part of the body. Vulvar varicosities — varicose veins appearing on the genitals — affect about 20 percent of pregnant women, according to one study.
Expecting mothers develop vulvar varicosities during pregnancy for the same reason that they develop varicose veins — veins in the lower part of the body fail to adequately pump blood upwards to the heart.
During pregnancy, an expanding abdomen exerts significant downward pressure on the veins in the legs and vulva, which then overtaxes the valves. Plus, a pregnant woman’s blood supply grows by 20 percent, so the veins must hold an increased blood flow. That becomes even harder to do when hormones released during pregnancy, such as progesterone, relax the vein walls. Unable to contain the extra blood flow, the veins end up protruding from under the skin, forming varicose veins.
Women who’ve had varicose veins in the pelvic region stand a greater risk of vulvar varicosities during pregnancy. The good news is, the condition disappears about six weeks after delivery. For that reason, treatment plans focus on easing symptoms.
Treatment for Vulvar Varicosities
Most expectant mothers are unaware they have vulvar varicosities because they experience no symptoms. Those who do may notice swelling and experience a sensation of pressure in the genital area. They may also feel pain during sex, after standing for a long period of time, or after exercising.
Pregnant women may also see bulging veins around the vulva. A doctor can diagnose vulvar varicosities with a physical examination, or an ultrasound if necessary.
Unlike varicose veins, which usually require surgery to eliminate, vulvar varicosities diminish in the weeks following the birth. If the condition becomes bothersome, pregnant women can try some treatment options to reduce discomfort and encourage optimum blood flow, including:
- Applying a cold compress to the genital area.
- Switching to flat shoes.
- Avoiding prolonged periods of sitting or standing and changing positions frequently.
- Elevating hips while in bed.
- Wearing support garments specially designed to relieve pressure in the vulva area during pregnancy.
Because vulvar varicosities bleed very little, they don’t cause problems during delivery. The one possible complication from the varicosities is pelvic congestion syndrome, a chronic condition arising from many varicose veins crisscrossing the genital region, which can cause the vulva to swell and block blood flow.
Surgical treatment for vulvar varicosities is typically not recommended unless the veins fail to recede long after giving birth. For those cases, minimally invasive procedures like the ones used for varicose veins address the condition by closing off the compromised veins with a liquid agent or laser.
Our Specialty is Vein Health
The specialists at the Center for Vein Restoration concentrate on the care and treatment of veins. Our therapies can eliminate your varicose veins and spider veins. If you think it’s time to treat your unsightly varicose veins, or if your vulvar varicosities are causing significant discomfort, contact us today for an appointment.