We have all heard about swelling as a symptom of pregnancy. You have probably heard of swollen ankles, swollen feet, and even swollen fingers – but a surprising symptom of pregnancy that you may not know about yet is vaginal swelling.
If you are currently pregnant and looking for an answer to the question, “Is it just me experiencing vaginal swelling while pregnant?!” The answer is “NO!”
Yes, you read that correctly. Vaginal swelling is an extremely common and typical symptom of pregnancy. Unfortunately, it is a topic not talked about nearly enough, and so when this happens, it can be incredibly jarring and leave many pregnant women with numerous unanswered questions.
Luckily your search can safely end here! In this article, we will be discussing everything you need to know about vaginal swelling during pregnancy, including what symptoms you can expect to have, the possible causes behind it, how to prevent vaginal swelling, and finally, the treatments that you can try to alleviate some of the swelling.
Again, remember that this is a normal and common symptom, so while it may be uncomfortable to experience, there is no reason to feel uncomfortable talking about it! Let us open the dialogue and get straight into everything you need to know!
Is it Normal to Experience Changes to Your Vaginal Area During Pregnancy?
First and foremost, you should know that every vagina is different! Women come in every shape and size; the same goes for their vaginas. Normality is subjective and what is or is not okay for your pregnancy is entirely relative to you and your body.
Everyone’s vaginas, both outer and inner lips, look different because the shape, length and size are entirely determined by your genetics. However, hormonal shifts during pregnancy or childbirth can cause notable physical changes. This is normal and very common.
One such physical change that your vaginal area may experience during pregnancy is swelling. We will talk a bit about the causes of this swelling below.
What Symptoms Do You Experience with Vaginal Swelling While Pregnant?
There are several accompanying symptoms you may experience along with swelling if you experience vaginal swelling during pregnancy. However, because every pregnancy is unique, not all women will experience all these symptoms, and some women may experience other symptoms that we may not mention. If you are concerned about any of your symptoms, be sure to visit your doctor to ensure nothing more serious is happening.
But without further ado, here are some of the symptoms of vaginal swelling that pregnant women can expect to experience.
1) Swelling around the vulva, perineum, and vaginal area
The most apparent symptom of vaginal swelling for pregnant women is…swelling. You will likely notice this change if your ‘downstairs’ region becomes noticeably enlarged. Vaginal swelling can cause the vulva or vaginal area to become puffy or swollen for the duration of pregnancy.
The vulva is part of the external genitalia and comprises the vaginal opening, labia, clitoris, urethral opening, and labia. The perineum is the area of skin between the vagina and anus that can also become swollen during pregnancy as it stretches in preparation for birth.
While temporary, it may cause an uncomfortable and unusual ‘full’ feeling in the vaginal area. This can cause a lot of discomfort for the pregnant woman.
2) Sudden itchiness down there
An itchy feeling around the vaginal area may accompany vaginal swelling. The itching is usually uncomfortable and irritating. Although, this symptom may not be experienced by all pregnant women experiencing vaginal swelling.
3) Varicose veins and bumps
Another common symptom that some women with vaginal swelling may experience is ‘bumps’ down there. This is caused by varicose veins forming in the vulvar region due to the swelling.
4) Darkening of the skin
Another symptom of vaginal swelling includes the darkening of the skin of the labia. The skin in this area may become more blue or purple. This symptom is another that all women may not experience.
5) More Discharge
While it is very normal for women to experience discharge as this helps the vagina to maintain a normal balance of bacteria, the amount of discharge may increase along with vaginal swelling. Note that discharge should be thin and milky in colour with a mild odour. If you experience a discharge that is thick or lumpy, or if the discharge is accompanied by symptoms like itchiness or foul odour, you should talk to your doctor.
Light spotting and vaginal swelling are relatively normal and not a cause for concern. However, be sure to pay attention to the amount of spotting because heavy bleeding may indicate that something more dangerous or concerning is happening.
The Surprising Causes of Vaginal Swelling While Pregnant:
There are many reasons different women experience vaginal swelling during pregnancy, but today we will be talking about some more common causes.
#1) A build-up of fluid
One cause of vaginal swelling in pregnant women is a build-up of fluids. These fluids can become trapped in a pregnant woman’s body, leading to an excess of fluids and swelling, even in the vaginal area.
#2) Blood volume increases during pregnancy
When a woman becomes pregnant, her body undergoes many changes to prepare to house and grow a new human. One such change is an increase in blood volume, which helps the body to support the growing foetus. This is caused by the rise in the oestrogen and progesterone hormones.
Moreso, the uterus has to grow, increasing blood volume, especially in the pelvic region. More blood in the body means that there is a limit on how quickly blood is circulated between your lower body and your heart. These two things combined can then result in vaginal swelling.
Pregnant women may also experience even more sensations in their vaginal area due to this extra blood flow which may also mean that even if the vaginal area does not appear swollen, it may feel as if it is heavier, and this can also be uncomfortable.
#3) Contracting a yeast infection while pregnant
Yeast infections are especially common in new moms-to-be; unfortunately, they can also be a culprit when it comes to swelling in the vaginal area during pregnancy. This is because yeast infections often cause inflammation, which can cause swelling – or even more- on top of existing swelling.
#4) Varicose veins in the vaginal region
Varicose veins in the vaginal area (medically termed vulvar varicosities) are common in pregnancy and appear bumpy, enlarged purple or blue veins. These varicose veins develop as a result of certain valves in the body allowing blood to pool in certain spots or cause blood to flow in the incorrect direction.
These veins are more commonly found on the calves but can also develop in the vaginal area or vulva when a woman is pregnant. This is because the growing baby can cause compression in certain veins in the pelvis. While these varicose veins might be uncomfortable or alarming, they are not dangerous or medically concerning.
#5) Pregnancy Hormones
A change in hormones causes another contributing factor to swelling in the vaginal region of pregnant women. These pregnancy hormones result in veins widening and relaxing, which can lead to swelling.
6) Perineum preparing for birth
The perineum stretches in preparation for birth which can lead to swelling and further discomfort. Many women experience pain, discomfort, and swelling in this area postpartum, as over 45% of women’s perineum tear during birth. Some may have to undergo an episiotomy to avoid harsh tearing as the baby passes through. Even minor tears can cause severe swelling and pain in this sensitive area.
7) Poor Hygiene, wrong products, and infections
Vaginal swelling can also be caused by improper hygiene, which can lead to an infection, or even the use of incorrect cleaning products, which may cause an allergic reaction and, therefore, swelling and inflammation.
What Does Vaginal Swelling Mean?
Usually, vaginal swelling during pregnancy does not mean anything apart from you being pregnant and your body adapting to the challenge of housing a baby.
This swelling may already begin at the beginning of your pregnancy in the first trimester, and it usually becomes more intense as the pregnancy progresses. This is because more pressure on the pelvis increases as the baby ‘drops’, which happens when the baby’s head moves towards the pelvis close to birth. Symptoms also tend to worsen after exercise, getting up after sitting, or sexual intercourse.
An important thing to note is that while developing swelling in the vaginal area during pregnancy is quite common and usually harmless, it is still important to bring it up with your doctor. This is to ensure that your doctor can check that it is not medically serious – such as an infected cyst or an infection that could harm the mother or baby.
When Does Vaginal Swelling Go Away?
Some good news for those experiencing this unpleasant symptom is that this swelling is not permanent! These symptoms will likely dissipate within 6 weeks after birth. It will initially take some time to go away because the labia tend to be swollen after a woman undergoes a vaginal birth, as the tissues in the vagina go through a lot trying to push a tiny human out!
How long healing takes often varies from person to person and the cause of the vaginal swelling. However, by two weeks after birth (postpartum) you should be healing. If you do not experience any changes by then, you should consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Is It Possible to Prevent the Onset of Vaginal Swelling While Pregnant?
Unfortunately, we do not have the answer you are hoping to see.
Simply put, you can do nothing to ensure that you will not experience vaginal swelling during your pregnancy because it is an extremely common symptom of pregnancy. However, there are some straightforward at-home remedies that you can try to relieve the discomfort of vaginal swelling.
Easy & Simple Treatments for Relief from Vaginal Swelling While Pregnant:
There are many simple things that you can do at home to get relief from the discomfort and pain caused by vaginal swelling. We will list some of the simplest and most effective remedies below, so give them a try!
Elevate your legs!
As swelling can be caused by poor circulation from the legs and pelvic area due to higher blood volumes during pregnancy, elevating your legs can help to promote better circulation, thereby reducing swelling. Prop a few pillows under your knees until your legs are seated higher than your heart when lying flat on your back.
Use an ice pack or cold compress wrapped in a cloth on your swollen vaginal area. Ice is well known for helping to reduce swelling and ease discomfort.
Constantly changing your position while sitting or standing can help ease pressure and swelling, so keep moving about during the day.
Using supportive garments like support straps, compression bands or underwear specially designed for those with vulvar varicosities can help take the uncomfortable pressure off your swollen areas. Some garments even support a pregnant person’s lower back and abdomen, relieving stress.
Do Not Scratch!
If you are experiencing itching as a side effect of vaginal swelling, refrain from scratching! If an infection causes inflammation and itchiness, then scratching can spread this infection or lead to unpleasant complications. Instead, try to drink a lot of water as this can help expel the infection faster and relieve the burning sensations. Try soaking in apple cider vinegar as this can help to provide relief from, itchiness and swelling.
When Should You See a doctor?
It is important to see a doctor if you have any questions about your symptoms, but also if you begin to experience more severe symptoms such as:
*If you do not begin to heal postpartum or if swelling worsens.
*If you experience abnormal discharge.
*If you develop a cyst, ulcer, or small bumps and itching. These symptoms often require medication and should not be self-medicated at home.
To Sum It All Up…
Vaginal swelling is an unfortunate, uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful pregnancy symptom. However, this is a typical and very common pregnancy symptom, so do not feel alone and hopeless.
There are many symptoms of vaginal swelling other than just swelling. These symptoms can include the development of varicose veins, itchiness, and the darkening of your skin ‘down there’ – so be sure to read more about these above.
Moreover, the causes of this swelling can be numerous, but we have discussed the most common causes of vaginal swelling during pregnancy, including hormonal shifts due to pregnancy, fluid build-up, increased blood flow, yeast infections, and improper hygiene.
Knowing the cause is one of the best ways to manage vaginal swelling. This is because, for the most part, you cannot prevent the onset of this symptom. However, making sure to clean ‘downstairs’ properly, moving around, elevating your legs, and using ice, as well as supportive garments, are all good ways to reduce and ease swelling.
Be sure to see your doctor if you display worrying symptoms or have any questions. It is better to be safe than sorry regarding the health and happiness of you and our baby.