I was in my second trimester when I could bear the discomfort no longer. "I'm feeling a lot of pressure," I told my midwife at my appointment. "You know," I said dramatically, "Down There."
"Down there?" my midwife repeated. "You mean your perineum?"
I nodded. "It feels like down there might fall out! There's so much pressure and everything's swollen. That whole area could easily relocate to my knees."
"It sounds like you have vulvar varicosities," she replied matter-of-factly.
Did she say vulvar? The latent 13-year-old girl inside of me screamed, "Eww!"
Lucky me. I had varicose veins in my vulva. My midwife explained the varicosities were caused by extra blood flow Down There as well as the pressure my growing uterus was putting on the area. Having varicose veins in my vulva was much like having hemorrhoids. It was the same thing, just one block over.
Unfortunately, there was no cure for vulvar varicosities. For temporary relief, my midwife suggested a vulvar supporter, thick elastic bands which I would wear over my panties to lift and support my perineum. I ordered one from a medical store online. (There was no way I was buying that thing in person.) It looked like a modified jock strap with a touch of lace to indicate which side to wear to the front. I stepped into it, trying in vain (ha ha) to see the supporter below my expanding baby bump.
Across the room my husband mumbled, "Sexy."
I shot him a look that translated to "If you ever want to have sex again, you will shut up NOW."
Wearing the supporter brought me physical relief, but I was an emotional mess over my predicament. I didn't like having varicose veins in my vulva. What was I supposed to say when anyone asked how my pregnancy was going? "My vulvar varicosities are really uncomfortable today, but thank goodness for my vulvar supporter. What's new with you?"
It turns out my midwife had suffered from vulvar varicosities during her pregnancy. She could relate to my discomfort and embarrassment. She assured me I was not alone and that other pregnant women were suffering, too.
What other women? Besides me and my midwife, I knew no one with this problem. Pregnant women could discuss nausea and cravings as if they were badges of honor, yet no one talked about vulvar varicosities. Did Angelina Jolie suffer from vulvar varicosities? Beyoncé? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I lumbered around in silence with thick elastic bands between my legs for the rest of my pregnancy.
After my daughter was born, the pressure subsided. My veins returned to their pre-pregnancy state by my 6-week postpartum checkup. The supporter soon became a distant memory.
Except sometimes I might ask a pregnant woman how she's doing. The reply is usually "Fine" or "Ugh, morning sickness." I wonder, though, if maybe, just maybe she's suffering from vulvar varicosities. I want to offer her support—or at least tell her where to buy a supporter.