Vulvar Varicosities Can Cause Discomfort During (And After) Pregnancy

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You’ve heard of varicose veins: twisted, enlarged veins, usually on the legs, where blood pools instead of circulating as it should.

Vulvar varicosities are varicose veins on the surface of your vulva, the area outside the opening of your vagina. They’re bluish, bumpy, bulging, and uncomfortable.

“About 20 percent of pregnant women get vulvar varicosities,” says obstetrician/gynecologist Kevin Edwards, MD. “Most resolve within six weeks after delivery.” About 4 percent of women who are not pregnant get vulvar varicosities. Often they have jobs where they spend long periods of time on their feet.

You may not have any symptoms other than the bulging veins. But for some, they cause:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Pain
  • Unusual pressure or feeling of fullness

How Are They Treated?

These options will usually relieve your symptoms:

  • Compression stockings
  • Frequent breaks from standing
  • Icepack to relieve any burning
  • Over-the-counter zinc oxide paste or H1-antihistamine to relieve itching
  • Elastic belt that lifts and supports your perineum (the muscle/tissue between your anus and vagina)
  • Sleeping on the left side
  • Swimming for exercise

Bed rest is not usually recommended, says Dr. Edwards, because it may increase the risk of blood clots. Vulvar varicosities typically go away within six weeks after delivery. “If they don’t, you can talk to your doctor about options to remove them,” says Dr. Edwards. Such options include:

  • Sclerotherapy: a solution is injected into the veins, causing them to shrink
  • Embolization: a minimally-invasive procedure to block the blood flow
  • Removal or resection of the veins

Often vulvar varicosities will return if you become pregnant again.

Will They Affect My Delivery?

“Vulvar varicosities don’t necessarily mean you’ll need a Cesarean section; vaginal delivery is fine,” Dr. Edwards explains. “However, some of the literature suggests that if the veins are dilated more than a centimeter, a Cesarean section would be best to prevent a vein from rupturing during delivery.” Talk to your doctor to determine what’s best for you.

Do They Signal An Underlying Problem?

If you have vulvar varicosities, you may have blood clotting issues which can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolisms (PE), as well as chronic pain in the vulva area. These are topics to discuss with your doctor. 

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