Hemorrhoids can also result from constipation since pregnancy hormones cause your bowels slow down. When stool is hard, the extra straining to eliminate it can put pressure on veins in your rectal area, causing them to become inflamed and bulge. "On top of that, higher progesterone levels cause the walls of the veins to relax and allow them to swell more easily," says Dr. Harris.
If you had hemorrhoids before pregnancy, you're more likely to have them during pregnancy. They can also develop postpartum because of pushing during labor.
How can you prevent hemorrhoids during pregnancy?
Your body undergoes a lot of changes when you're expecting, and swelling veins can be one of them. Talk to other expectant moms during prenatal classes, share experiences or ask your instructor about natural remedies.
These steps may help you avoid hemorrhoids during pregnancy:
- Eat a high-fiber diet. Choose from fresh avocados, beans, and other fruits and vegetables.
- Don't delay going to the bathroom when you feel the urge. Make sure you don't sit on the toilet longer than necessary because this puts pressure on your rectal area.
- If you're already constipated, ask your healthcare provider about a fiber supplement or stool softener.
- Choose a food-based prenatal vitamin. Synthetic vitamins, especially iron, can cause constipation. Food-based prenatal vitamins are more absorbable.
- Get regular (and safe) exercise right up to your due date — as long as your provider says it's OK.
- Do Kegel exercises. They increase circulation in the rectal area and strengthen the muscles around the anus.
- Don't sit or stand for long stretches of time. If your job involves sitting at a desk, get up and move around for a few minutes every hour or so.
Promote good habits
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids. If you aren't drinking enough, your body will reabsorb water through the colon, leaving dry stool that's hard to push out.
- Lie on your side when sleeping, reading or watching TV to take the pressure off your rectal veins.
- Try not to gain more than the recommended amount of weight because the more you gain, the more pressure on the rectum.
How can you treat symptoms during pregnancy?
If you experience symptoms, try one of these remedies:
- Cold therapy can help reduce swelling and bring temporary relief. Apply an ice pack (with a covering) to the affected area.
- Soak in warm water several times a day. If you don't have a bathtub, you can buy a sitz bath. After getting out of the tub, pat the area dry.
- If sitting is uncomfortable, get a donut-shaped pillow to ease the pressure.
- Apply witch hazel pads to the area and change the pads frequently. Witch hazel has a cooling effect and helps reduce swelling.
- Baking soda – used wet or dry – can be applied topically to help alleviate itching.
- Coconut oil can relieve pain and inflammation. So can pure aloe vera without added chemicals and fragrances, or arnica.
- Stay clean and use soft, unscented toilet tissue or unscented wipes to avoid more irritation in the affected area.
- Acupuncture can also help.
When should you see your healthcare provider?
Also, always check with your provider before taking any medication for hemorrhoids while you're pregnant. There are a lot of hemorrhoid relief products available. Keep in mind that most of these products should be used for no more than a week to avoid such side effects as skin irritation or thinning.
For many women, hemorrhoid symptoms resolve after delivery. If they persist, surgical treatment might be recommended.