Best Ways to Get Rid of Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy

pregnant person

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Pregnancy can be a time of joy, but it can also be filled with aches, pains, and other physical discomforts. One top complaint among pregnant folks is hemorrhoids, which are actually quite common while expecting.

If you are experiencing hemorrhoids in pregnancy, or are concerned that you might experience them in the future, you likely have some questions and concerns. You might want to know what causes pregnancy hemorrhoids, what they feel like, how to prevent them—and most importantly, how to get rid of them.  

We’re here to help. We reached out for expert advice on how to manage hemorrhoids and to get the care you need to feel better.

What Are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids, sometimes called piles, occur when the veins in and around your anus become irritated, bulging, swollen, and inflamed. Hemorrhoids can occur in two locations: inside your lower rectum, and around your anus. They are quite common in the general population, affecting about 1 in 20 people, and they are more likely to occur as you age. Over 50% of people over the age of 50 experience hemorrhoids.

Why Do Hemorrhoids Develop During Pregnancy?

Hemorrhoids develop when there is intense straining or pressure on the rectal area, such as when you are straining during pooping, sitting for long periods of time, or lifting heavy objects. During pregnancy, you are carrying a heavy weight in your pelvis (your baby!), which puts extra pressure on your rectal area.

Jill Hechtman, MD, OB/GYN at Pediatrix Medical Group, says that hemorrhoids are quite common during pregnancy and immediately postpartum. “This is because of increased blood flow to the pelvic area and pressure from the enlarging uterus,” she says. “This increases the blood flow and causes swelling to the veins that run through the anus.”

The hormonal changes of pregnancy also make hemorrhoids more likely, according to a 2022 study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. You can blame the hormone progesterone specifically for this, as progesterone relaxes the muscles in the walls of the rectal blood vessels as well as the intestines, making them more vulnerable to damage.

Hemorrhoids can happen at any point in pregnancy, but tend to be more prevalent during the third trimester, and usually go away after birth. They affect anywhere from 15-41% of pregnant people, and they're more common in older pregnant folks, and people who have had more than one pregnancy.

What Are Symptoms of Hemorrhoids in Pregnancy?

If there’s one thing to know about hemorrhoids in pregnancy, it’s that if you have them, you will almost definitely be aware of it. That’s because the symptoms of hemorrhoids can be quite uncomfortable and bothersome.

The most common symptoms of hemorrhoids during pregnancy are itching, burning, swelling and bleeding, says Dr. Hechtman. You may also be able to feel a firm, tender lump on the outside of your anus.

Occasionally, hemorrhoids burst, Dr. Hechtman says, which can lead to bleeding, or a condition called thrombosed hemorrhoids. “This is when a clot forms in the hemorrhoid,” Dr. Hechtman explains. “This tends to be exquisitely painful and can sometimes require surgical intervention.”

Diagnosing Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are not something you should diagnose on your own, says Kelli Burroughs, MD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital in Texas. “If you are experiencing rectal burning, itching, pressure, pain, or bleeding, you should be evaluated by a healthcare provider,” she advises.

If you suspect you may be dealing with hemorrhoids, make an appointment with an OB-/GYN or healthcare provider, or plan to talk to them about it during a scheduled prenatal visit. Diagnosing hemorrhoids usually involves discussing your symptoms and doing a rectal exam. External hemorrhoids may be diagnosed by visual examination, but internal hemorrhoids involve a digital (finger) rectal exam. In severe cases, a consultation with a colorectal surgeon or GI specialist might be needed.

Can You Prevent Hemorrhoids in Pregnancy?

To some extent, hemorrhoids during pregnancy can’t be fully prevented. This is because the factors that cause hemorrhoids are necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy, explains Dr. Hechtman. “We want that increased blood flow to the pelvic area and we want the baby to grow,” she explains.

At the same time, there are some variables that may be in your control. According to the study from BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, constipation is the greatest modifiable factor when it comes to hemorrhoids in pregnancy. In other words, addressing and preventing constipation during pregnancy may be a way to decrease the chances of hemorrhoids.

Heather Swain, DPT, pelvic floor physical therapist at Ally Total Physical Therapy, agrees with this, and says that avoiding constipation and straining can decrease your risk of developing hemorrhoids in pregnancy.

“If the pelvic floor muscles are overworked from chronic problems with constipation, it places increased demands for blood flow to the pelvis,” Swain explains. “This can lead to added vascularization in the pelvis and predispose people to hemorrhoids.”

How to Treat Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy

Even if you do your best to prevent them, sometimes hemorrhoids in pregnancy just happen—and you definitely didn’t do anything wrong. Thankfully, there are many ways to soothe your discomfort.

One popular and effective way of dealing with hemorrhoids is to use a ring pillow when sitting, which are round pillows with a hole in the middle. “Ring pillows help relieve the pressure and can aid in some of the discomfort,” explains Dr. Hechtman. She also recommends using witch hazel pads, warm sitz baths, and Preparation H to soothe your hemorrhoids. “These are safe during pregnancy,” Dr. Hechtman assures.

Dr. Burroughs says there are some simple dietary changes you can make to avoid constipation, which can contribute to hemorrhoids. In particular, she recommends adding more fiber to your diet, and including foods like apples, lentils, raspberries, split peas, and whole wheat pasta.

A major contributor to hemorrhoids during pregnancy is straining during bowel movements, Swain says. Besides dietary changes and avoiding constipation, she recommends improving your body mechanics while pooping. One way to do this is using a stool under the feet to make the body more ergonomically positioned while emptying your bowels.

A Word From Verywell

Hemorrhoids during pregnancy are not fun at all, and they can be super uncomfortable. The good news is they usually resolve soon after your baby is born, so hang tight, and have hope. You shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare provider if you think you might have hemorrhoids or if your hemorrhoids are acting up. There are effective and helpful treatments available to you.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. Hemorrhoids.

  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & Causes of Hemorrhoids.

  4. Picciariello A, Rinaldi M, Grossi U, et al. Management and Treatment of External Hemorrhoidal Thrombosis. Frontiers in Surgery. 2022;9:898850. doi:10.3389/fsurg.2022.898850

  5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. Diagnosis of Hemorrhoids.

  6. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. What can I do for hemorrhoids during pregnancy?

  7. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. Treatment of Hemorrhoids.

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.