Haemorrhoids During Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment & Prevention
There are lots of wonderful surprises and lovely things to look forward to in pregnancy, and then there’s the other stuff. Haemorrhoids come under the ‘other stuff’ category.
A common symptom for many women, but one of those ones you might be a little embarrassed to talk about, we’ve compiled a list of FAQs so you can get most of the information you need right here.
Remember though after reading this article if you are unsure about your condition, or if anything concerns you, you should feel comfortable speaking to your doctor. The advice in our articles is always just general in nature.
What are Pregnancy Haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids are varicose veins of the rectum, and will most often be experienced during the last trimester.
As your baby gets bigger and heavier he takes up more space in your body, and pushes everything that was already in there down further. The veins become compressed and can become engorged, and haemorrhoids are what happens to the veins in the bowel wall.
The blood flowing around your body and feeding your baby oxygen and nutrients is another reason why haemorrhoids are common at this time. You are transporting more blood around your body that when you aren’t pregnant, an increase of more than another 50%.
In general, pregnancy hormones also weaken and relax your muscles and tissues to help your body grow and get ready for labour. This loosening of tissues means your veins are not as firm as usual and are much more pliable.
They aren’t an indication of risk to your baby or poor health on your behalf, and are very common, with between 20% and 50% of pregnant women thought to suffer from them (the statistics are sketchy because women don’t talk about this much!
What do pregnancy haemorrhoids feel like?
Haemorrhoids can occur internally or may actually protrude outside of your rectum. You may notice some bleeding on the toilet paper, itching around your rectum, or sharp pain in that area.
You may notice pain in the area after sexual intercourse.
Sometimes you can see the distended blood vessel and other times you may see no external sign at all.
How can you prevent pregnancy haemorrhoids?
You can take steps to try to prevent haemorrhoids but all of your good intentions might add up to nothing – you may still suffer from them anyway, I’m afraid!
You are more likely to suffer from haemorrhoids in pregnancy if you:
· Have had them before
· Are overweight
· Are carrying multiples
· Are inactive or on bed rest
· Are retaining extra fluid
Constipation during pregnancy is your biggest enemy
The best thing you can do to avoid haemorrhoids is to try to reduce your chances of constipation, as pushing hard to get bowel movements moving can make things worse.
It can be difficult to avoid constipation completely, again this is one of the lovely side effects of pregnancy. But take natural healthy supplements to help keep you regular, drink a lot of water and try not to force your bowels to move.
Other fluids like fruit juice and herbal tea can also help. Reduce your coffee intake if you are having any.
As well as trying not to push your poos out, don’t sit on the toilet for long periods of time if it is clear that nothing is going to happen soon.
Sitting on the toilet puts additional pressure on the rectum, which is why you don’t want to be there for a long time. As well you should place your feet on a small stool while you are on the toilet, as this tilts your pelvis into a more comfortable position to help things work out.
Get up and walk around if nothing is happening, as this can help.
If you need to poo don’t get into the habit of holding on or putting it off. Go when you need to go.
Some other things you can do to help, however:
· Reduce your intake of red meat and white and processed carbohydrates. Increase your fibre intake and roughage, such as fruit and vegetables and wholegrains.
· Reduce spicy foods as well as those that are high in salt
· Be kind of, um, anal, about your anal hygiene. Make sure that the area is well cleaned and gently looked after – disposable wipes can be the best for this.
· Avoid heavy lifting and always engage your pelvic floor muscles before any kind of strain. This is very good exercise to prepare for labour and help you to recover after delivery as well.
· Don’t stand or sit for long periods of time. Engage in some gentle exercise several times a week while you are pregnant, such as walking, pilates, swimming or water aerobics
How do you treat pregnancy haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids are easily treated by an over the counter cream, but make sure that you let your pharmacist know you are pregnant before buying anything.
The cream will reduce engorgement in the area and may make you feel better, but the condition may not clear up completely until after your baby is born and you’ve had time to heal.
You can take supplements to soften your poo and make you more regular. You can also use cold packs or medicated pads or creams containing local anaesthetic to help reduce your pain. Try to avoid scratching.
Having a bath with some dissolved bicarbonate of soda can also provide relief.
When you need to be concerned
Some light bleeding from the rectum and pain is common with haemorrhoids, but bleeding from your vagina or stronger, more abdominal pain is not. If you have heavier bleeding or more pain talk to your doctor.
If the blood vessel is protruding from your rectum it can be gently pushed back in, again you should best talk to your doctor about this.
And remember that even after reading this article if you are unsure about your condition, or if anything concerns you, you should feel comfortable speaking to your doctor.