Pregnancy and Hemorrhoids

What is a hemorrhoid, anyway?

Pregnant African American mother holding her stomach
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What Is a Hemorrhoid?

A hemorrhoid, also known as piles, is actually a form of a varicose vein. The veins in and around the rectum become swollen. During pregnancy, your body has more blood circulating through your veins. All your veins, especially those below your uterus, become dilated. Symptoms include itching, burning, pain, and bleeding. Bleeding from a hemorrhoid is usually bright red, and more often seen on the toilet paper than in the bowl.

Always get rectal bleeding checked out by a doctor, even if you suspect it is due to a hemorrhoid.

Can I Prevent Hemorrhoids?

In some cases, hemorrhoids are a result of giving birth. The reason: when you give birth vaginally, you put a great deal of pressure on your anus -- and because your veins are already dilated, you are at risk for hemorrhoids. There's not much you can do to prevent the problem; it's simply a side effect of a normal birth.

For pregnant women, however, the main culprit behind the formation of hemorrhoids is constipation. Straining while moving your bowels puts even more pressure on the already dilated veins. If you do get constipated, talk to your health team about a stool softener. To avoid constipation in the first place:

  • Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.
  • Eat a high fiber diet (bulk-forming agents such as Metamucil may be help).
  • Exercise regularly.

Kegel Exercises

  • Tense the muscles in your vaginal and rectal area.
  • Hold this position for 8 to 10 seconds, relax, and then repeat several times.
  • Do several sets of these throughout the day.
  • You can do Kegels just about anywhere (sitting at your desk, in your car, waiting at the doctors office) and no one will even notice.

Kegel exercises are beneficial for two reasons.

The first is that they will increase circulation to your rectum, which in turn will help to prevent hemorrhoids. The second is that they will strengthen the vaginal and perianal muscles, which will facilitate healing after delivery.

I already have hemorrhoids, so how do I get rid of them?

While continuing to do everything in the list above used to prevent constipation, there are several other tips that will shrink them and reduce discomfort.

  • Keep it clean: Keep your anal area as clean as possible. Using moist wipes or medicated hemorrhoid pads are more comfortable than toilet paper.
  • Lay down: Avoid sitting and standing for long periods of time, which can put pressure on the hemorrhoids.
  • Let someone else do it: Avoid heavy or moderate lifting.
  • Petroleum jelly: Try some petroleum jelly on the rectum to cool it off and ease bowel movements.
  • Try some ice: Sitting on an ice pack may give some relief from the burning.
  • Use a sitz bath: Sit in enough warm water to cover the hemorrhoids, either in your bathtub or in a sitz bath that fits on the toilet.
  • Use suppositories or creams: Check with your health care team before trying any of the over the counter remedies you may find in a drugstore. See:Medication for Hemorrhoids

If none of these remedies helps, your hemorrhoids get worse, or you see any bleeding, check with your health care team. Remember to hang in there, the hemorrhoids may well go away within a short time after you deliver!

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