We expect many body changes whenever we get pregnant, we just don't expect vaginal varicose veins (gulp!) to be one of them.
Becoming pregnant not only means that we have a sweet new life growing inside us, but it also comes accompanied by a laundry list of worries, to-dos, and body changes that we face—and we take it head on. We begin chatting with our girlfriends about all the ugly side-effects, yet no one ever brings up varicose veins...in your vagina.
Yes, this is a real thing, and according to Luis Navarro, M.D., a board-certified phlebologist and general surgeon, vaginal varicose veins is a worry that 1 in 3 women are facing during their pregnancies.
"Many of my patients are women who developed varicose veins for the first time during pregnancy, this is very common. As the uterus grows, it puts pressure on the large vein on the lower part of the body, which in turn increases pressure in the leg veins. The amount of blood in the body increases when pregnant, adding to the burden on a woman's veins overall. The increased female hormones also play a role. It's important to address these veins as there are many health problems that can develop from them, such as irritation, swelling, painful rashes, skin ulcers, blood clots and severe infection," says Dr. Navarro.
You will know that you have vaginal varicose veins if you see them, as they occur in the vulva, so you don't need to go exploring up inside your vagina. In most cases, you will only know that you have them if your health care provider spots them and tells you. If you are feeling any pressure in the vulvar area, swelling, or any type of discomfort, don't hesitate to ask about these at your next doctor's appointment.
Getting diagnosed with vaginal varicose veins can be a tough one to digest, but you are definitely not alone if you have them. Luckily, there are some easy ways to prevent vaginal varicose veins during your pregnancy:
- Maintain a healthy weight during your pregnancy to keep your body's system of veins from getting strained.
- Wear graduated compression stockings, which act like an added layer of muscle and help circulation. They are tight at the ankle,looser as they go up, which helps prevent swelling and vein formation, and can be purchased at medical supply stores.
- Get regular exercise. Ask your doctor about the recommended amount of exercise for your trimester of pregnancy and make sure you have a healthy routine.
- Elevate your feet. Pregnancy is tiring to begin with, and elevating your feet will help prevent pressure on weak veins. Raise your feet 6 to 12 inches above your heart whenever possible (and also at night) to assist circulation.
- Move around. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can decrease circulation, which contributes to the formation of varicose veins. Make the effort to walk around throughout the day, and keep blood flowing.
In the end, whether you have vaginal varicose veins often comes down to genetics and there's not much you can do about them. If you do find you have them during pregnancy, there is a medical treatment, called sclerotherapy, that can be done to remove them after giving birth and you are finished breastfeeding. This is a painless procedure that helps treat and keep your vaginal varicose veins under control.
Chandra Adams, board-certified OBGYN and owner of Full Circle Women's Care of Jacksonville, Fla. says with more babies, however, the possibility of persistence increases. "Although they can't be prevented, cosmetic procedures such as laser ablation or vein stripping [removal] are available to treat those that don't resolve on their own," she says.