And it burns, burns, burns... Just another delightful pregnancy issue that many moms-to-be can look forward to — hemorrhoids. The good news is that, in most cases, hemorrhoids during pregnancy can be treated naturally at home. Better yet, you can try to avoid them altogether.
What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the rectal area. They range in size from as small as a bead to as large as nickel and can be inside or outside the rectum.
"Pain and itching are the main symptoms. They usually worsen during bowel movements," said Cathleen Harris, MD, an OB/Gyn on the HonorHealth medical staff. Hemorrhoids also tend to bleed. "Pregnancy hemorrhoids are no different than the ones you may experience when you're not pregnant," she noted.
Why are they more common during pregnancy?
Although hemorrhoids can appear at any time, most moms-to-be get them in the third trimester, starting around week 28.
Increased blood flow to the pelvic area, as well as pressure from the enlarging uterus and growing baby, can cause the veins that run through the anus to swell.
Hemorrhoids can also can result from constipation. Thanks to pregnancy hormones, bowels slow down during pregnancy. 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," said Dr. Harris.
If you had hemorrhoids before pregnancy, you're more likely to have them during pregnancy. Hemorrhoids may also develop postpartum as a result 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 sold in Arizona.
- Don't delay going to the bathroom when you feel the urge to have a bowel movement. 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, and then point your hair dryer on low heat on the area. It can feel quite comforting.
- 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.
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.