Before I had children, my periods consisted of cramps at the start of each menstrual cycle and the occasional hormonally-charged emotional meltdown over something stupid like running out of coffee. After children, things became a little more intense.
My babies were born pretty close together and I breastfed both of them, so I went without a period for over three years, which was pretty awesome.
When my period finally did return, it came with a new side effect that I hadn’t experienced before: vagina pain. I know that sounds a little crazy but I didn’t know what else to call it, and I really struggled with explaining it to my close friends.
Basically, the first day or two of each period brought on this throbbing pain in my vagina. Except it wasn’t really in my vagina; it was the outside of my vagina. After a quick Google search to learn the proper names for the various parts of my lady bits, I discovered that the pain was actually originating in my vulva and labia.
The best way I can describe the feeling is a throbbing, my-crotch-is-on-fire kind of pain, and it was so intense at the beginning of my period that it hurt to stand or walk. Every time I tried to Google things like “vagina pain during period,” I got results varying from uterine pain to painful sex but nothing that described this labia pain I was experiencing.
Eventually, I came across some forums on a pregnancy site where women were discussing a throbbing pain in their vagina during their periods. And they mentioned that, just like for me, it was a new development since having babies.
No one seemed to have a solution or explanation though, which told me that none of them were discussing it with their doctors. While I wasn’t motivated enough to make a specific appointment for “vagina throbbing,” I did decide I was definitely bringing it up at my next annual exam.
When the day of my annual arrived and I was filling out the paperwork, the first question was “Do you have any questions or concerns you’d like to discuss with your doctor?” Great, now they want me to put this strange vagina problem into words for the 20-year-old office receptionist and EVERYONE else to see. I decided to go with generalities and wrote “pain with period.”
Sitting in the exam room in my paper gown, I went over in my head what the best way to describe my new problem would be, and was convinced that my doctor would have no idea what I was talking about.
But when the time came and I told her about my throbbing vagina, she immediately had an answer: varicose veins.
Devastation. I have varicose veins in my VAGINA. You know those gnarly blue veins all over your grandmother’s legs? Yeah, apparently they exist in my lady parts, or more specifically in my vulva.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “The symptoms of vulvar varicosities (that’s the technical term) include a feeling of fullness or pressure in the vulva area, vulvar swelling and discomfort resulting from long periods of standing, exercise and sex.”
I don’t have to worry about the sex or exercise part because those two things ain’t happening on the first day of my period, but standing? Well, that’s kind of a necessity.
So, what can I do about it? There’s no cure for varicose veins and when they present themselves in normal places like legs and feet, patients are advised to wear a compression sock. Unfortunately, there’s no compression sock for your vagina so you have to get creative.
My gynecologist suggested that I wear a girdle. Yes, she used the word girdle (to my face!), as if I wasn’t already feeling geriatric enough. I prefer to use the word Spanx.
I’ve had one period since my chat with my doctor, and sure enough Spanx did the trick, almost completely eliminating the pain and throbbing. Man, I thought I loved Spanx in my 20s but they’ve become even more invaluable in my 30s.
Now that I know the proper term to Google, I’ve learned a lot more about vulvar varicosities and have found that there are a few other things you can try if you suffer from this condition:
- Get a support garment. They make ones specifically designed for vulvar varicosities, but a pair of Spanx seems to do the trick.
- Sit or lay down. Standing for long periods of time increases the blood flow down there, so take a load off. For me, sitting or laying down completely alleviated the pain.
- Go swimming. Again, gravity isn’t your friend, so swimming or taking a bath can help relieve the pressure and throbbing.
- Ice down your vagina. I haven’t personally tried this one yet, but apparently applying cold packs to your vulva can ease the pain as well.