Pregnancy can be an exciting time for many woman but it is also a time when physical changes occur rapidly – most are harmless and some like varicose veins are very common.

Pregnancy, particularly from the second trimester, can put extra pressure on the veins around the ovaries, uterus and vagina, causing venous insufficiency.  Click here to learn more about venous insufficiency.

How does pregnancy cause increased pressure?  Because as your uterus grows, it applies pressure on the large vein (called the inferior vena cava) which carries blood back to your heart from your pelvis, feet and legs.

Pregnancy related varicose veins often appear in the vulvar or buttock region and can extend down the inner thigh and lower leg.  Pregnancy-related varicose veins can appear any time during or following pregnancy.

What is a varicose vein? 

Varicose veins are enlarged veins. Inside your veins you have valves, which can sometimes fail.  When this happens blood pools in your legs, which gives symptoms of discomfort, aching, swelling and more.  After pregnancy they can settle to become less symptomatic. 

Spider veins, as the name suggests are often the shape of a ‘spider web pattern’. They are close to the surface of the skin and tend to be very visible, red, black, blue or purple in colour.

What are vulvar varicosities? 

These are varicose veins that have developed in your external genital area, called the vulva.  This is a common experience during pregnancy because changes in blood flow and increased hormone levels can cause the veins in the vulva to become enlarged. 

Symptoms include:

  • Veins that bulge
  • Veins that are blue or purple in colour
  • Pressure, heaviness or discomfort in the vulva
  • Itchiness
  • Pain during sex
  • Discomfort during exercise or walking

Like with leg varicose veins, no treatment is offered during pregnancy and it may settle after the birth.  If not, you can either refer yourself or ask to be referred to one of our vascular specialists, Dr Lupe Taumeopeau or Mr. JK Wicks to discuss treatment options.

How do we treat Varicose veins?  We do not offer treatment during your pregnancy but we recommend compression socks be worn throughout the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.  Once your baby has been born, there are various treatment options:

What can I do to prevent varicosities or varicose veins during pregnancy?

  • Wear compression socks from your second trimester
  • Wear maternity support underpants
  • Sleep on your left side.  This relieves pressure on the inferior vena cava. 
  • Avoid wearing high heels
  • Avoid sitting or standing in the same position for long periods
  • Elevate your legs when you can, to help improve circulation

Varicose veins and vulvar varicosities do not affect the delivery of your baby.  Typically vulvar varicosities settle 6-12 weeks after delivery.  Varicose veins may not actually go away but symptoms may settle following the birth of your baby.

If you have ongoing concerns about vulvar varicosities or your varicose or spider veins, make an appointment with Specialist Vein Health today and put your mind at rest. 

Contact us today.