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Is there relief for vulvar varicosities?
Q: I'm 26 weeks pregnant, and I'm experiencing slightly painful swelling on my labia. I have read that varicose veins can occur in the vulva area. Is this what I have? And, is there a way to relieve the discomfort?
A: It may well be that you are developing varicose veins in this area, called vulvar varicosities. These swellings are the result of blood vessels that can engorge during pregnancy for several reasons. First, the volume of blood in your body increases during pregnancy. Second, the hormones of pregnancy can cause the walls of your blood vessels to relax, making the blood vessels seem larger. Most important, your growing uterus places pressure on the blood vessels in your pelvis and the lower half of your body. Veins often swell in response to this pressure, resulting in varicose veins of the legs, hemorrhoids around the anus and varicose veins of the vulva.

While these vulvar varicosities are sometimes painful, they are not dangerous to your pregnancy and will reduce in size after your delivery.

You should see your healthcare provider to assess if you have varicosities on your labia. If you do, you may find some relief by resting on your left side. This moves your uterus off the largest pelvic veins, and allows your varicosities to decompress temporarily. Cool compresses may also provide some relief. Lastly, ask your physician about specialized maternity supportive belts. If you use such a support, put this on first thing in the morning to relieve external pressure on the vulva. This could reduce the swelling and discomfort that occurs when you're upright.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist