Vulvar Varicosities: What Are They and How Are They Treated?

Like those that appear on the legs, vulvar varicosities are not serious, although they can cause some discomfort and discomfort. Read on to find out more.
Vulvar Varicosities: What Are They and How Are They Treated?
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Last update: 01 March, 2023

Vulvar varicosities are venous bulges due to increased blood flow during pregnancy. They usually appear in the 20th week of gestation, although they don’t occur in all pregnant women.

Although they aren’t dangerous, they can sometimes be quite painful. Likewise, the symptoms are usually aggravated when standing for a long time, and can also affect the woman’s sex life.

What are vulvar varicosities?

Both from the physical and emotional point of view, several changes take place during pregnancy. And, in some cases, there may be side effects to them. Most of them are temporary.

Among the discomforts that arise at this stage are the well-known morning sickness, as well as problems with fluid retention, heartburn, drowsiness, and constipation, among others.

One of the least known or mentioned changes are vulvar varicosities. As the name implies, this is a venous bulge on the outside of the vagina.

As in other areas of the body, the vulva has blood vessels of various sizes. In particular, varicose veins here appear from about week 20 in the superficial veins of the vulva.

There may also be some internal ones.

On the other hand, while it’s true that a high percentage of pregnant women develop varicose veins in the legs, this isn’t the case with vulvar varicosities. These occur in only 20% of cases, according to research on the subject. Of course, it’s possible to have both types or in both areas.

A woman with vulvar varicosities.
Pregnancy is accompanied by changes in a woman’s body. Among them, digestive and reproductive changes are the most noticeable.

Symptoms of vulvar varicosities

With vulvar varicosities, symptoms are not always present. In fact, some women don’t even notice them.

However, sometimes they can become painful. Even as pregnancy progresses, discomfort may appear or worsen as venous pressure increases.

In particular, depending on what month the woman is in, the following discomfort may occur:

  • A sensation of pressure in the genital area.
  • Swelling of the labia, vulva in general, and perineum.
  • Bluish-colored lumps that are visible to the naked eye.

These sensations may be experienced on one side only, but may spread and affect other areas, such as the rectum. On the other hand, some activities often cause the discomfort to increase. For example, some physical exercises that exert pressure on the area or standing for a long time.

There’s also more pain during sexual intercourse.

Why do vulvar varicosities appear?

With pregnancy, there’s an increase in blood flow. On the other hand, there’s also an increase in venous pressure as the fetus grows. The hormonal imbalances inherent to pregnancy have an impact on the dilation of the blood vessels.

Consequently, this results in an increased volume of blood that accumulates in the lower body, both in the pelvis and extremities. This will lead to venous bulges in the vulva, pelvic area, perineum, and legs.

Vulvar varicosities don’t appear in all pregnant women. In this order of ideas, there are other factors that increase the chances of their occurrence, such as the following:

  • Hereditary components.
  • Pre-existing varicose veins in the legs.
  • High levels of progesterone.
  • Excessive weight gain.

It should be noted that vulvar varicosities don’t only occur in pregnancy. They can also be associated with pelvic congestion syndrome.

Treatment of vulvar varicosities

Vulvar varicosities don’t affect childbirth, even when it’s vaginal. They usually disappear after giving birth, approximately after 6 weeks, without the need for any intervention.

Treatment, when it’s carried out, can be directed to alleviate the symptoms, applying some of the following measures:

  • Placing a support garment specially designed for the vulvoperineal area
  • Using compression stockings
  • Applying cold compresses
  • Raising the legs

In cases of pelvic congestive syndrome, other alternative approaches may be considered, such as phlebotonic drugs, vein embolization or sclerotherapy. However, once they have been resolved, vulvar varicosities may recur.

Compression stockings.
Compression stockings would help improve venous flow throughout the lower body. As a secondary benefit, they would improve pressure in the vulvar area.

Can they be prevented?

Prevention of vulvar varicosities isn’t always possible, although it is possible to influence some of the factors that contribute to their appearance. Among the precautions that are recommended are the following:

  • Don’t wear high-heeled shoes
  • Sleep on your left side
  • Perform moderate physical activity
  • Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • Don’t wear clothes that are too tight in the groin area or legs
  • Avoid exposure to heat, as it dilates the blood vessels more
  • Take measures to avoid or treat constipation
  • Put your legs up for twenty minutes
  • Don’t wax in the bikini area
  • Monitor weight gain

When to see a doctor?

Vulvar varicose veins can be painful, especially if they’re large, but they don’t affect childbirth. In fact, serious cases are rare, although sometimes there may be superficial venous thrombosis (inflammation due to the formation of a thrombus).

In any case, if any discomfort (pain or lumps) is observed in the vulvar area, it’s advisable to consult a doctor. The doctor will make the diagnosis and suggest appropriate measures.

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The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.