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Round Ligament Varicosities in Pregnancy

By Emma Watkins ; Updated June 13, 2017

Pregnant women sometimes develop swollen pelvic veins that cross into the groin and wrap around the round ligament of the uterus. These varicose veins, which normally appear during the second trimester or later, rarely cause pain, do not require surgery and usually disappear after women give birth.

About Round Ligament

A ligament is a piece of tough and flexible connective tissue that links two bones or cartilages, holds a joint together or supports an organ, keeping it in place. The round ligament of the uterus falls in the last category. It secures the reproductive organ to the groin, maintaining it stable during pregnancy.

Blood Volume and Varicose Veins

Increased blood volume is one of the reasons for varicose veins -- including round ligament varicosities -- in pregnancy, according to a March 2009 article in the journal “RadioGraphics.” MayoClinic.com explains that although there is generally more blood flowing in a pregnant body, the amount circulating from the legs to the pelvis in particular decreases, a change the body makes to support the fetus. The reduction in blood flow often leads to varicose veins. An expanding uterus gradually blocking the veins aggravates the situation, causing round ligament varicosities.

Progesterone and Varicose Veins

The journal “Acta Dermatovenerol Croatica” published in 2009 the results of a study on pregnancy, varicose veins and progesterone. Fifty pregnant women with swollen veins were compared to 25 pregnant women without varicose veins. All 75 individuals were in the 14th week of their first pregnancy. The researchers found that progesterone concentration was much higher in the bloodstream of women with bulging veins than in the ones with normal-size veins. “RadioGraphics” also mentions that progesterone causes muscle relaxation, a contributing factor to round ligament varicosities.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Round ligament varicose veins in pregnancy can be confused with inguinal, or groin, hernias and cysts. Doctors obtain an accurate diagnosis through an ultrasound. In the ultrasound image, the swollen veins show up as large, bulging areas inside of the inguinal canal. The condition is benign and disappears naturally after birth. If the round ligament varicosity causes pain, a physician may prescribe a painkiller safe for use during pregnancy.

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