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NOTE: Opinions and advice provided on this website are based on the personal experience of the author, Stacy Quarty. Ms. Quarty in no way claims to be a professional source of medical, psychological or statistical information.

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Vaginal Swelling

Q. I read the questions about vaginal swelling on your web site and talked to my doctor about my own swelling. The doctor did not examine me and basically said it was varicose veins. I can't tell you how much the vaginal swelling hurts. It also bleeds a little. It is limited to one side of my vagina. Do have any relief ideas? This is killing me! I am going to make that doctor look at this swelling when I go back. Why doesn't anyone talk about "cheeseburger crotch"?
-Anonymous, Alabama

A. You may have venal thrombosis, which can be much more uncomfortable than varicose veins. If a vein has squeezed out through the muscle wall and gotten pinched, it may balloon up with blood. This condition can be very painful and definitely needs medical attention. I had the same thing happen to me, but it was a thrombosed hemorrhoid. That was the worst pain I've ever experienced– worse than childbirth, believe it or not!

Do have your doctor examine you ASAP and be sure to mention how much pain you are in. In the meantime, keeping your feet and lower body elevated as much as possible may bring you some relief. You might also try a warm bath with Epsom salts.

As far as public discussion of a pregnant woman's cheeseburger crotch, I think lots of people are too embarrassed to admit to this and many other odd symptoms of pregnancy.

These sorts of details, sometimes quite gross or embarrassing in nature, are important for every pregnant woman to know (at least in my opinion!). For example: No one ever told me that I may feel baby hiccups in my rectum; that my nipples were going to crack apart into dozens of small sections that resembled dried desert mud; or that I would be entitled to a "pregnancy card" that would be handy when cutting a toilet line of 100 people.

During my first pregnancy, I was truly annoyed that I couldn't get this information from any book, doctor, or even my own sister. That's why I wrote the book, Frankly Pregnant; The Reality Journal of Pregnancy during my second pregnancy. If other people won't tell you about cheeseburger crotch, I will. I believe pregnant women need to know.

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Q. I am 32 weeks pregnant with my second child. Last week I noticed swelling on the right side of my vagina and up towards the hairline. It's sore in the morning when I wake up, but the discomfort goes away after I urinate. It's especially uncomfortable if my husband tries to touch me there. The pain will radiate from my crotch area to my lower right side. I saw my OB/GYN yesterday– she said it may be a hernia but she can't tell for sure so I should just keep an eye on it. What else could this be? I did not have any leukocytes in my urine yesterday so I don't think it's bladder related. Thanks!
-Karen, Michigan

A. The lump could be a number of things, such as uterine leiomyomas, inguinal hernia (like your doctor suggested), or venal thrombosis. (See the other half-swollen vagina questions for more details.) I've been told the best way to diagnose an inguinal hernia is through an ultrasound by a skilled technician.

Until your doctor has determined what it is and prescribes suitable treatment, you can also try keeping your legs and lower body elevated as much as possible to alleviate some pressure and pain. The weightlessness associated with swimming and baths may be helpful, too.

If it is a hernia, applying counter-pressure to the area can be helpful, as it's the sticking out of the guts that feels most uncomfortable. Wearing control-top panty hose and putting a washcloth or sock against the area for support may help.

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Q. I have been having pain on the left side of my vagina. I looked today to see what was going on, and yes, I do have "cheeseburger crotch," but on top of that there is a very large ugly purple vein bulging out in my vaginal area. It definitely aches, but is not unbearably painful. Is this something I need to see my doctor about ASAP?
-Anonymous, Virginia

A. This half-swollen vagina thing seems to be a very common problem! The lump could be a number of things, such as uterine leiomyomas, inguinal hernia, venal thrombosis or simply nothing. (See the other half-swollen vagina questions for more details.) And, yes, I think you should consult your doctor, just in case.

Q. I am 26 weeks pregnant and have been diagnosed with a painful inguinal hernia. Should I be able to have a normal vaginal (home) delivery?
-Joke, California

A. I am no medical professional, but I don't imagine a home delivery would be a good idea. If the hernia were to rupture further as a result of labor, you may want to be in the hospital close to an operating room. I suggest discussing your options with an experienced OB/GYN, midwife and/or general surgeon.

It probably all depends on how advanced your hernia condition is. If the hernia is extensive, you may even require surgery before the delivery.

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Q. My husband and I had sex a few nights ago, pretty rough, and now my right vaginal lip feels like there is a lump in it. It hurts, but my husband doesn't see anything except a little swelling. I am almost three months pregnant with my second baby and I haven't experienced this before. Could it be a popped blood vessel from the roughness of the sex, and if so, why did it take two to three days for me to feel anything?
-Anonymous, Georgia

A. Your rough sex may have aggravated an already existing condition, but probably didn't cause it. The lump could be a number of things, such as uterine leiomyomas, inguinal hernia, venal thrombosis or simply a bruise. (See the other half-swollen vagina for more details.) If it is a bruise, it may not have blossomed, as bruises tend to do, for a few days. If this continues to bother you or becomes worse, you should consult your doctor just in case.

Q. I am seven months pregnant and half of my outer vaginal area is swollen. I have had three other pregnancies and this has never happened. It feels like it is throbbing once in a while. There is no pain and it doesn't bother me. Do you know what it causing this?
-Anonymous, California

A. Although I am no medical expert, I might guess at one of the following:

  • Uterine leiomyomas or "fibroids" - These are non-malignant tumors that most commonly appear in the groin and can be aggravated during pregnancy and/or first materialize during pregnancy.
  • Inguinal hernia This condition happens in about 1 of every 1,000 pregnancies. It is a bulge of the intestines pushing out through a gap in the muscle wall in the groin area.
  • Veneal thrombosis - This involves a vein popping through the muscle wall. As with hemorrhoids, you may feel a "throbbing" in the area.

Or, finally, it could be nothing.

In any case, you should consult your doctor ASAP, just in case.

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Q. I am in the sixth month of my second pregnancy and I am experiencing some discomfort and swelling in my vaginal area that I have not experienced before. When I used a mirror to see if anything was wrong, I was very surprised by the appearance of my vagina—it is swollen open. It is purple and red in color. It sometimes feels like I need to push it all back inside and close my lips. My discharge seems normal in color, smell and amount. I don't want to panic, or not panic if I need to. I am embarrassed to talk to anyone about this. It's hard to explain how it looks or feels, both physically and emotionally. I also don't want it to affect my unborn child during the delivery. Any idea what I am talking about? Do I need to tell my doctor right away or can I wait until my next appointment to discuss?
-Anonymous, California

A. Yes, I think I know what you are referring to - my girlfriends and I call it "the cheeseburger crotch" of pregnancy, because that's what it may look like you are stashing in your panties. (See another "cheeseburger crotch" question on this page for more details.)

Some pregnant women may experience equal vaginal swelling on the inside and outside, while others may have more swelling on just the inside, like you. It's also possible that later in your pregnancy your condition may change. A flux of hormones may give you an equally large outer vagina, or perhaps the swelling on the inside may decrease.

The purple and red color you see on the inside is normal. Again, it's the hormones of pregnancy that are engorging the area with blood.

If you are experiencing any itching, burning, soreness or pain in your vagina, you should consult your doctor ASAP. In the meantime, keeping your feet and legs elevated for a few hours a day may help keep the swelling to a minimum.

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Q. I recently noticed that the interior parts of my vagina are very swollen, noticeably so when I am having a bowel movement. They almost seem to want to burst forth. Is this normal? This is my second pregnancy, and I don't recall noticing this the first time.
-Anonymous, Wisconsin

A. Ahhh... another case of "cheeseburger crotch," I see. (See the above question for details.)

This normal condition of pregnancy may not occur in every woman, or even every pregnancy (within the same woman). It is possible that your first pregnancy stretched the membranes on the inside of your vagina so they are now more susceptible to engorgement. Most women's bellies "pooch out" sooner with the second pregnancy than the first. Same theory here.

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Disclaimer: This web site, Frankly Pregnant: The Reality Site of Pregnancy, and the book it represents, Frankly Pregnant: A Candid Week-by-Week Guide to the Unexpected Joys, Raging Hormones, and Common Experiences of Pregnancy, in no way claim to be sources for expert medical or professional advice of any kind.

©2006 Frankly Pregnant: The Reality Site of Pregnancy, by Stacy Quarty. All rights reserved.

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