Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is full of beautiful and life changing moments, as well as some really unpleasant ailments.
Perhaps you have a kind friend that's filled you in on what you can really expect regarding pregnancy, embarrassing things and all.
Or perhaps you're one of many women who are caught off guard by nausea, hemorrhoids (haemorrhoids in Australia), and frequent trips to the toilet.
While not all women experience them, hemorrhoids are a pretty common pregnant ailment.
Whether you knew to expect them or not, they are equally uncomfortable.
Fortunately there are things you can do to help alleviate discomforts and help them heal during the postnatal period.
What Are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are essentially varicose veins in the rectum. These veins in the lower rectum and anus become inflamed and swollen. There are two different kinds of hemorrhoids:
- Internal hemorrhoids are inside the rectum. These are often painless but do have a tendency to bleed. Some will experience some discomfort or a feeling of pressure, but many don't report pain with these.
- External hemorrhoids feel like soft lumps around the anus. They are small hemorrhages underneath the skin.
It's also possible to experience prolapsed internal hemorrhoids. This is when an internal hemorrhoid pushed through the anus. This can be a painful form of internal hemorrhoids. The prolapse, which means it is pushing through the anus and is outside of the body, often occurs after using the toilet. In some cases the anal sphincter can strangle them causing them to be permanently prolapsed.
What Are The Symptoms of Hemorrhoids?
During pregnancy your body goes through many changes. Sometimes this makes it difficult to decipher between normal changes and ailments that might require attention and treatment. Anytime you are uncertain about symptoms it's a good idea to reach out to your healthcare provider.
Some symptoms of hemorrhoids are:
- Itching or burning sensation
- Wiping bright red blood after a bowel movement
- Sharp intermittent pain near you anus
- A bulge or skin tag around the anus
- A dull ache or pain during or following a bowel movement
- Uncomfortable pressure
If you experience any bleeding, it is important to get in contact with your healthcare provider to determine what, if any, treatment is necessary.
Why Does Pregnancy Cause Hemorrhoids?
During pregnancy and after, women are prone to hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are most common in the last trimester of pregnancy, and in the first month after the birth.
Risk factors for hemorrhoids include constipation, history of hemorrhoids or fissures, newborn birth weight greater than 3800 grams, and straining during childbirth for more than 20 minutes.
During pregnancy, a woman has extra blood volume, and extra weight on the perineum and rectum, contributing to hemorrhoids. Extra blood volume also means if you're sitting on hard surfaces or standing for prolonged periods of time, it can make you more susceptible to hemorrhoids.
Heavy lifting can also lead to hemorrhoids – something many mothers have trouble avoiding.
Haemorrhoids and Blood Volume
The increase in blood volume during pregnancy causes your veins to dilate. When these veins have the added pressure from your growing uterus they become susceptible to becoming varicose veins – which means to be abnormally swollen or dilated.
Haemorrhoids and Constipation
Since becoming pregnant, you've likely spent more time worrying about your digestive system than you ever have before. From nausea and food aversions to chronic constipation, this systems stays on your mind. The slower digestion during pregnancy and the increased need for hydration means constipation can occur frequently.
Constipation and the associated strain to pass a bowel movement can put you at risk for developing hemorrhoids. Staying adequately hydrated and consuming high fiber foods (sourced from fresh veggies and leafy greens, opposed to breads and cereals which can make it worse) and fiber supplements can help reduce constipation, and therefore reduce the risk or severity of hemorrhoids.
You should contact your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:
- Persistent pain in your abdomen or near your anus
- If your symptoms don't improve or worsen in 7 days
- Changes in your bowel habits that last more than 7 days
Find out more about constipation during pregnancy.
How To Get Rid Of Hemorrhoids
As uncomfortable as hemorrhoids can be, the good news is there are treatment options and they are usually a temporary ailment. There are natural options, dietary changes and medications available to treat hemorrhoids. Before taking or using anything to treat, be sure to check with your healthcare provider.
The Importance Of Dietary Changes
A high fiber diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains can help prevent constipation. Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated is also important. Limit processed grains (breads, cereals, cake, biscuit, pasta etc) and foods as they are usually low in fiber and difficult to digest, which can contribute to constipation.
Cooking with healthy oils (e.g. coconut oil) and using healthy oils on salads (e.g. olive oil) can also help keep your bowels regular. Coconut, olive and other natural oils are also a source of healthy fat which is excellent during pregnancy.
While natural, anything we consume or put on our skin can have medicinal effects so be sure to work with a healthcare provider when deciding what treatments to try.
Some natural remedies include:
- Witch hazel applied to the affected area
- Tissue salts which are available over the counter
- A warm bath or sitz bath several times per day for 10 minute sessions
- An arnica tincture applied to the affected area
- Acupuncture to help improve circulation
Some of our healing post-birth bath soak recipes might be ideal. However, be sure to check all of the ingredients are safe during pregnancy.
Sometimes dietary changes and natural remedies don't provide enough relief. In those situations it's important to talk to your healthcare provider about medical options for relief.
- An astringent ointment or suppository
- Rubber band ligation
- If nothing else works, surgery (make sure you're educated about risks in both the sort and long term)
Some women find wiping to be painful. A gentle baby wipe or a medicated witch hazel wipe makes wiping less uncomfortable.
You might also find sitting on a rubber ring/donut seat helpful.
Dealing with hemorrhoids isn't pleasant, but fortunately for many pregnant mothers, it's a temporary ailment. A good diet, listening to your body when it comes to lifting and standing, and other treatments can help keep them under control.
Do you have any helpful tips for women with hemorrhoids? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.