In several instances, doctors have heard complaints from pregnant women of bluish-purple veins on the legs. Not only in the legs, but they also complain that they have pain in the pelvic area while standing or any physical activity. The pain is due to varicose veins which are very common in pregnant women.
A study conducted in 2017 estimates that 18-22 percent of all pregnant women develop varicose veins, especially near the pelvic area. Although these are more common in the legs and feet, some women may also develop them in the vulva.
Where can I develop varicose veins during pregnancy?
Varicose veins that appear purplish in the legs are large, swollen veins that occur as the blood doesn’t flow properly. Vulvar varicosities are defined as a type of varicose veins that develop in or around the vulva. The vulva comprises of a wide range of small and large blood vessels. These veins can be tiny and only moderately swollen or can be large, twisted and painful. This is because during pregnancy, the blood flow and pressure on the genitals and lower body increases.
Research findings reveal that an estimated 4 percent of pregnant women suffer from vulvar varicosities. They usually go away on their own within six weeks after the birth.
What causes these?
Every vein in your body has a valve that prevents blood from flowing backward. The veins, especially in the lower body, have to work harder to carry blood back up to the heart. There is more pressure on the veins in the mother’s pelvic area as the uterus grows. The increased blood flow to the genitals and pressure on the lower body make it more difficult for blood to flow in the correct direction.
Additionally, there are changes in the hormonal levels which leads to the relaxation of the blood vessels walls. All these factors raise the risk of forming varicose veins during pregnancy.
Varicose veins tend to be hereditary which means that women who have a family history of suffering from this condition, are more likely to develop them. They also might occur in older women, particularly after standing for a long period of time. If a woman who already has varicose veins elsewhere on their body are more susceptible to developing vulvar varicosities.
Are the symptoms different during pregnancy?
Women with varicosities usually do not notice or have any symptoms. Although they won’t be able to see any symptoms, they can feel it. The most common symptoms are-
- Pain in and around the ankle
- A feeling of fullness
- Swelling in or around the ankle
- The affected region may feel tender and sore, like a bruise.
If any of the symptoms are felt, then it should be consulted with the doctor immediately.
What are the treatment options, especially during pregnancy?
Surgery is not recommended by doctors for removing vulvar varicosities during pregnancy as they go on their own. After giving birth, if the veins do not disappear then surgical procedures are performed-
- Sclerotherapy- In this procedure, you’ll be injected with a liquid chemical to close off a varicose vein. The itchiness and scarring inside the vein cause the vein to close off and it fades away. But this procedure is often avoided as the treatment provides results after 4 to 6 weeks.
- Endovenous Ablation Therapy-In this type of treatment, radio waves are used to create heat to close off the vein.
Painless Laser Treatment For Varicose Veins during Pregnancy
During pregnancy, it is best that you avoid any kind of surgical procedure that involves any major cut or incision. The main reason being that this can further create complications during pregnancy. With the evolution of technology in the healthcare sector, laser treatment has emerged as one of the most effective treatment options for varicose veins. These are absolutely safe and approved by the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration. These are absolutely painless as the whole procedure is done under the influence of anesthesia. The doctor takes extreme care especially during pregnancy to cure this condition. There is no risk of infection because this procedure doesn’t involve any cut or incision. If you want to know more about this procedure, visit the doctor immediately.
How To Prevent Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?
The treatment for the condition mainly focuses on managing the symptoms. The ways to prevent the condition from getting worse are:
- Changing positions frequently
- Avoiding sitting or standing for long hours
- Sleeping with the hips slightly elevated which prevents pooling of the blood in the area
- Avoiding wearing uncomfortable shoes or high heels that put pressure on the lower body
- Drinking lots of water
In order to soothe the pain, the following can be done-
- Wearing a maternity support hose can help the affected area
- Applying ice or heat to the swollen area
- Sleeping on the left side in pregnancy to put less pressure
- Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug
Varicosities are a temporary condition during pregnancy. Women with varicosities should not be frightened about the condition as these tend to go away after childbirth. But it should be kept in mind, women who develop them during the first pregnancy may develop them again in their next one. Therefore, women should speak to the doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.