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Varicose Veins of the Vagina and Vulva in Pregnancy

Varicose Veins of the Vagina and Vulva in Pregnancy

Up to 40% of women will experience problems with varicose veins in their vulval region during pregnancy.

Worryingly though it is a condition which is often overlooked, with many women completely unaware of what they are suffering from. Leading vascular specialist Mr Mark Whiteley is keen to highlight this common condition which is frequently experienced by expectant mothers; and one which can open the door to some more painful and unwanted health concerns if not treated correctly.

The affected veins most commonly stem from the pelvic or ovarian vein reflux and are known to become more uncomfortable and prominent as the veins in the pelvis dilate and become distended. Mr Whiteley warns that there are a number of symptoms associated with this which women should be on the lookout for including: pelvic aching, dragging pain, stress incontinence and discomfort around the bladder caused by the distended veins pushing against it.

Varicose veins of the vagina and vulva are most likely to affect women during pregnancy who already have underlying venous issues, which they are most likely unaware of. It has previously been thought that pregnancy is a cause of varicose veins however; there is now evidence to suggest that this is nothing more than an old wives' tale, and in fact, pregnancy brings these underlying problems to light by making the undetected veins bigger and more visible.

The condition is rarely experienced during a woman's first pregnancy, as it is the birth of the baby that initially causes the varicose veins hidden inside the pelvis to communicate with the veins in the vulva. It is most likely that problems will start to be seen either immediately following the birth of the child or during further pregnancies, where the veins are prone to swelling and will become progressively engorged as the pregnancy progresses.

Shockingly, varicose veins of the vagina and vulva often go completely unnoticed by many medical professionals throughout the UK, who are also unaware that there is an effective procedure offered by specialist vascular consultants to treat the uncomfortable veins after they have carried out a duplex scan to assess suitability. The procedure is called Coil Embolisation and is a cutting edge, minimally invasive X-ray technique which works using a thin catheter to guide a coil into place to stop the blood in the veins from refluxing. Once treated, the pelvic and vulval veins will shrink significantly and any painful symptoms will disappear.

Over the years many other methods have been tested to treat this condition however, they have all carried a high risk of failure. Past methods have included operating directly on the veins through both open and keyhole surgery. This method proved to be particularly traumatic for the patient and a far cry from the minimally invasive Coil Embolisation technique which is now favoured. The coils which are used are by no means 'new' as they have been used to block off blood vessels in other medical procedures for many years – meaning they have been proven to be both safe and very effective.

March 2013

Information provided by The Whiteley Clinic

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