Bulging, purple, painful varicose veins have become my everyday reality this pregnancy. Beginning at about fifteen weeks, my body has suffered from those evil, spiderweb veins creeping down my thigh and behind my knee. Even better? They’ve affected my vulva. That’s been
fun excruciating. Everything is harder and everything hurts. I have to elevate my legs at least every two hours to alleviate the swelling, and can I mention the effect on my sex life? Ouch. My husband is literally scared of hurting me, and I don’t blame him!
Varicose Veins & Pregnancy
I always thought varicose veins were something that women had to deal with later in life. Turns out, they’re a fairly common affliction during pregnancy. When you become pregnant, your volume of blood increases, while the blood flow from your legs to your pelvis decreases. Extra pressure is put on the veins, causing those lovely purple veins to show up. Most commonly, these occur in the legs, but they can also appear on the vulva and around the rectum (aka: hemorrhoids). The uterus can also put extra pressure on the inferior vena cava (the vein carrying blood from the legs and feet to the heart) which will increase the likelihood of varicose veins.
Managing the Pain
Since I’ve experienced varicose veins in two pregnancies, I’ve been through a lot of trial & error with different remedies. These are some tried and true ways to manage the pain until your little one arrives.
Support Underwear: I had no idea this kind of underwear existed during my first bout with varicose veins. They compress the veins in the vaginal area and provides amazing relief as soon as I slip them on. I ordered this pair, but there are several different brands to choose from. They are not at all sexy, but they get the job done.
Compression Tights: For varicose veins in legs, compression tights can make all the difference. Often, health insurance will cover the cost of a pair. They can be difficult to put on but will provide much-needed relief once you squeeze into them.
Leg Elevation: Even with compression, leg elevation is still necessary. Be sure to raise your legs above your head directly in front of you, allowing better circulation of blood between your legs and pelvis.
Changing Positions: Alternating positions and not standing for long periods of time can help with blood flow. Staying active by taking brisk walks or swimming can also aid in circulation.
Cold Compress: On the nights that the pain has been almost unbearable, a simple cold compress has helped a lot. The cold decreases the swelling pretty rapidly.
Sleeping on the Left Side: Sleeping on the left side of your body helps with the pressure on that vena cava and allows the blood to flow a bit better.
Essential Oil Blends: A friend of mine made a great blend of oils for me to massage onto the varicose veins. While it hasn’t made them disappear, it has definitely provided some relief. Her blend includes 30 drops of cypress, 20 drops of lavender, 10 drops of lemon, and 20 drops of lemongrass with 60ml of fractionated coconut oil.
But will they go away?!
In most cases, YES. Varicose veins are superficial and normally don’t pose any threat to the mother during childbirth. After my second was born, the veins returned to their normal size and faded. I have high hopes that the same will happen this time around as well. However, my doctors warned me that they generally get worse with consecutive pregnancies. So far, I’ve found that to be true.
If you find yourself with painful varicose veins, I hope this post gives you some solace. You are not alone, and the pain will go away. Check out the resources below for more information on the topic.
Hemorrhoids and Varicose Veins in Pregnancy, University of Rochester Medical Center
Third Trimester: Woes and Remedies, Integrated Mama Wellness (Source for essential oil blend)
Treating Varicose Veins Naturally During Pregnancy, American Pregnancy Association
Varicose Veins During Pregnancy, What to Expect
Vulvar Variscosities During Pregnancy, Mayo Clinic