Q: I’m 34 weeks pregnant and have a heaviness around my vagina – it looks like there are varicose veins down there. Help!
A: You’re not alone. Many women suffer with varicose veins in this area – known as vulval varicosities. Hormones make the veins and smooth muscles relax, and circulation becomes ‘sluggish’ causing veins to bulge. There’s also pressure from the weight of your baby. Long periods spent standing up can aggravate this, so put your feet up as much as possible.
Wearing a thick sanitary towel may help you feel ‘supported’. Chemists sell cool gel pads, specifically to wear in this area, to help soothe and reduce swelling after birth, which could be helpful at this stage.
Please don’t worry about talking to your midwife about this – she’ll have heard it many times before!
Q: At 29 weeks, I’ve started antenatal classes. Everyone’s bump looks bigger than mine. Should I worry?
A: Women often compare bumps and worry about their own. Bump size depends on many things: the position your baby is in, your height, how many babies you’ve already had, how many you’re carrying and so on.
Talking to other class members, you’ll discover you’re all secretly obsessed with each other’s bumps! Your midwife monitors your baby’s growth when she feels your abdomen, so antenatal checks should reassure you.
Q: A friend is due to have an ECV as her baby is breech. What is it exactly?
A: External cephalic version (ECV) is the procedure used to try and turn a baby from breech position to head down. It’s normally done at 37 weeks of pregnancy, as before then the baby may well turn of it’s own accord.
The doctor checks the baby’s position using ultrasound, and the woman may be offered a drug to relax the uterus muscles. The doctor then presses on her abdomen to gently push the baby’s head and bottom. It may feel uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t hurt. It doesn’t always work, but many feel that it’s worth a try.
Q: I’m at 34 weeks and my midwife has asked me to see a doctor at the hospital next week. She thinks I’ve got too much fluid around the baby. What could it mean?
A: An excess of amniotic fluid is called polyhydramnios, and occurs in less than 1% of pregnancies. It’s sometimes picked up by the midwife if she finds it difficult to feel the baby, and your bump is larger than expected. Women with the condition often complain of feeling bigger than they think they ought to be, the skin on the abdomen is tight and shiny and they get breathless quickly. Reasons for this include diabetes, and infection acquired during the pregnancy, or occasionally, a problem with the baby, such as if he’s unable to swallow amniotic fluid and pass it as urine in the usual way.
Take it a step at a time. The doctor will probably advise a scan to measure the amount of fluid, which might show that it’s still within a normal range. Sometimes there’s no apparent reason for an excess of fluid but be reassured that, in the vast majority of cases, mums go on to have a healthy baby.