*Warning: this post contains graphic language and imagery.
I went into my second pregnancy thinking I was more than prepared to be pregnant. I mean, I had survived one already AND read everything that’s been written about being pregnant known to womankind. However, as things go, I was totally unprepared to face one of the most annoying and painful symptoms ever.
And not just your regular old leg vein… I’m talking vulvar varicosities.
Huge, bulging, painful, scary-to-look-at purple monsters on your private parts.
A vulvar varicosity is a puffy vein found on the vulva or vaginal entrance. This condition often occurs during pregnancy due to increased blood flow and pressure on the pelvic floor resulting in varicose veins of the vulva or vagina. They can happen to any woman and are most common during the third trimester of pregnancy.
During the last two months of my first pregnancy, I experienced one varicose vein that began on my inner thigh and ran over my vagina and up to the top of my pubic bone. It only hurt when I was on my feet for a long period of time. After giving birth to Annabelle, the vein disappeared and left a little blackish bleb in its place. I thought nothing of it other than well…that ugly mark will always remind me of my first pregnancy.
A few months into my pregnancy with Ailey, I began feeling strange pressure in the area around my pubic bone. Almost overnight, the pressure turned to pinching and the pinching turned to pain. The bleb on my vagina became extremely swollen. I sat on a heating pad during the day at school and laid with an ice pack between my legs at night, but nothing seemed to make the pain go away. At my fourth month appointment I told my OB about the pain. I suspected I could have a varicose vein, but couldn’t really see much (and was too afraid to look at home on my own). Within seconds of my exam I heard him say, “Ohhh no. I’m so sorry Caitlin.”
“Sorry?? What are you sorry about?”
“Well, you definitely have a varicose vein down here, but it’s huge and complex. It seems to begin on your inner thigh and run all throughout the left labia. It also looks like another one is forming on the right side.”
I remember thinking… two? Two varicose veins? How could I survive 6 months of pregnancy with these things if they were going to get worse and it was already difficult to stand/sit/walk for long periods of time? I think I started crying at this point… I asked him what we could do about them and how I could make them go away. Unfortunately, vulvar varicosities do not go away until after labor and delivery.
On my way home from the doctor, I called Brandon at work and sobbed. Not only were these painful veins hideous, but they were going to get worse.
Apparently there were actually some tricks I could try to make my life easier – all from my favorite OB.
Buy a V2 Supporter Belt. Ladies – this thing looks like something straight out of a dirty movie. I highly recommend wearing it OVER a pair of undies and UNDER a pair of boy shorts. Don’t try to wear a V2 Supporter Belt under your leggings because you can see it through anything tight. I found that if I tied a shirt around my waist no one knew what I was wearing under my pants. They run small and by the end of my pregnancy it barely fit – so buy big.
Wear compression shorts or pants. I’ve mentioned before Lululemon High Times pants are my go-to during pregnancy for comfort and support. I did not wear any other type of legging since most maternity leggings are thin and not tight enough to compress my veins.
Elevate your hips when lying down. I spent most of my evenings with my hips propped up on pillows. As I became larger throughout my pregnancy, this position became more difficult.
Apply cold compresses. Ice packs with gel beads are your best option for trying to apply a cold compress to your swollen veins. While my hips were propped up on pillows, I held cold gel packs between my legs.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, my doctor and I discussed options for induction. Based on the amount of pain and discomfort I was experiencing from my vulvar varicosities, he said as long as my body was starting to show signs of early labor then he would induce me. On August 15th, four days shy of Ailey’s due date, I was induced and delivered in 9 hours. My veins disappeared within 2 weeks.
Here are some other tidbits about living with vulvar varicosities during pregnancy.
- Sex will be nonexistent – everything is too swollen.
- Heat does not relieve pain and swelling, but only makes it worse.
- Don’t use a mirror to try and see them. You can’t unsee something like that.
- Don’t show your husband. He can’t unsee something like that.
- They really disappear after labor and delivery. Mine were gone in a week.
The problem with vulvar varicosities is that they get worse with each pregnancy. Basically, your veins pick up where they left off at the end of the last pregnancy, hence the reason why mine were so intense during my second trimester. Truthfully, if you asked me at 37 weeks pregnant if I would ever have another baby, I would have told you, “There’s no chance I would go through this again.” But, after a not-so-difficult labor and delivery, and seeing sweet Ailey in my arms, it flashed through my mind that I can’t imagine not doing it all again.
The verdict is still out since Ailey is only 2 months old. We are loving our little girl oh-so-much, but as toddlers go – they can be exhausting. The memory of my vein pain is already something of the past, but I can’t forget how many tears were shed over them. My bet is that the reward of a new baby will trump the discomfort I will endure for nine months. Baby number three is a great possibility.