Pregnancy and the postpartum period bring many physical changes with them, some that persist and many that are not well understood or discussed among women. Vulvar varicosities occur in 10% of pregnant women, most commonly in the second trimester around the ﬁfth month. Visually they appear as soft bluish enlarged vessels on either the labia majora or minora. These vessels are often stretched and weakened but are not usually tender to the touch. The varicosities can be due to the following:
- Increased weight of the uterus applying pressure to the veins in the pelvic region.
- Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone that cause the blood vessels in the vein walls to relax.
- A previous labor, mostly from extended pushing.
Vaginal varicose veins tend to be hereditary and can also get worse with subsequent pregnancies. Pain, itching, discomfort, or heaviness in the labia major or minora during walking or intercourse, and dull, deep aching are some symptoms that can occur. Most often, the varicosities disappear a month or so after delivery. But some women suffer postpartum for up to a year or more. Out of embarrassment or lack of knowledge, women do not mention theses symptoms to their healthcare providers. There are natural treatment options that women can try prenatally and postpartum to help them have less pain, heal and reconnect to their body in comfort.
Natural Treatment Options
Chiropractic care during the perinatal period can help the nerves, muscles and bones that are contained within the pelvic bowel function optimally. Balancing the pelvic bones and increasing the proper neurological function of the musculature can help the body balance the effects of the growing uterus and the asymmetrical pressure that it can put on the lower spine and pelvis. There are chiropractors who have specialized training in perinatal care who can help bring some comfort and relief.
The two homeopathic remedies found most often useful for treating pregnant women with varicose veins are pulsatilla 30c and Calc ﬂuor 6x. Either of these remedies could safely be taken three times per day. With homeopathic medicine it is usual to take the remedy until symptoms subside and then reduce the dose, stopping when symptoms cease. If with a semi-acute remedy of this nature, there is no beneﬁt within a period of a two weeks, then it is not the right remedy and a homoeopath should be consulted to choose a remedy that suits the individual better. Arnica Montana 30C can also be taken perinatally when the varicosities are painful and tender.
There are some very powerful acupuncture points, one at the top of the head, the can help alleviate the pain and heaviness, increase circulation in the vaginal region and help postpartum with strengthening the vessels. Consider consulting a trained Japanese or Traditional Chinese Acupuncturist who has experience with perinatal care.
Things to Avoid:
- Constipation: Constipation will increase the internal pressure in the pelvic region and decrease circulation.
- Foods that can increase constipation such as highly processed food, food high in sugar and saturated fats.
- Strong spices such as cayenne, mustard, black pepper, hot sauce, coffee, alcohol, and smoking, which can aggravate the problem.
- Deep prolonged squats and straining on the toilet -this increases pressure on the varicosities
- If sitting for long periods of time, take breaks and walk around to increase the circulation to your pelvic bowl.
- Periodically rest with your legs elevated or lie down on your left side for 20-30 minutes a day. This will take the pressure of the veins and increase venous ﬂow.
- Try drinking one cup of tea containing Nettle leaf or Oat straw; these are known to strengthen the vascular system
- Drink fruit juice (fresh) from red berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and bilberries that contain a pigment, rutin, that can strengthen vessel walls
- Make sure to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, ﬁsh oils and drink plenty of water.
Try some simple and safe yoga poses:
Viparita Karani – Legs up the Wall – 3-5 minutes-lying with your hips close to the wall, legs up the wall with arms out to the sides with palms up- breath.
Prasarita Padottanasana – Wide-legged Forward Bend – feet 2-3 feet apart, toes facing inwards. Inhale raise arms up, exhale, hinge at hips and fold forward, knee slightly bent. Lift sits bones to ceiling, rotate inner thighs out- hug your baby to your spine.
Do pelvic ﬂoor exercises daily, which can increase circulation to the pelvic bowel and strengthen the pelvic ﬂoor which will help support the musculature and help take pressure off the varicosities.
Witch Hazel Compresses – Also know as hamamelis, is one of the safest natural perinatal care options out there. Natural pads soaked in witch hazel can be placed in the freezer, individually wrapped and can be place in underwear for instant relief. Witch hazel compresses can also be made with cotton pads and applied for 10-15 minutes a couple of times a day.
Vaginal Supports – Compression therapy supports are an option during pregnancy to help reduce pain and discomfort, especially for those who have to stand for long hours while working. The V2 Supporter by Prenatal Cradle, V-Brace by Embrace, and the SRC pregnancy shorts are just a few supports that can be worn pre and postnatally to help. It is suggested that you put the compression support on before rising in the morning to help prevent excessive swelling. Although, for those who ﬁnd it uncomfortable to wear all day, wearing it when standing, carrying or walking for long periods of time will also help.
Please remember your body is in the healing process. There are a lot of changes that you may not have anticipated with the birth of your baby. Although no one knows your body better than you, it is recommended to get the opinion of an expert to ensure your recovery process is a safe and effective one.