What to Do About Hemorrhoids After Birth

Stress is creeping up on her

Wondering if you are one of the lucky women who get hemorrhoids after having a baby? Well, read on to discover the symptoms of hemorrhoids and what to do if you get hemorrhoids after birth.

The good news is that for the most part, hemorrhoids aren't serious—and they go away with attentive home treatment. Still, hemorrhoids certainly don't make life comfortable for postpartum mothers during recovery. Following are some points that will help you understand what causes hemorrhoids, and how you can treat them at home.

What Are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are varicose veins: veins that have become swollen and engorged with blood. These swollen tissues appear in the rectal area and can vary from the size of a pea to that of a grape. There are internal hemorrhoids (affected veins are inside the sphincter), as well as external hemorrhoids (affected veins protrude outside the anal opening).

Depending on the person, hemorrhoids may simply feel itchy, but for others, they can be absolutely painful. In some cases, particularly following a bowel movement, they can cause rectal bleeding.

If you had hemorrhoids before you were pregnant, there's a good chance they'll come back to plague you post-delivery. And while that's certainly a bummer (pardon the pun), the good news is that hemorrhoids can most often be treated at home.

What Causes Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy?

For pregnant or postpartum moms, hemorrhoids are often a result of stress on the perineum in the months before, and during, delivery. You know, since you're carrying an actual human being in your lower half and all. Veins work as a sort of valve to push blood back up to the heart. When those "valves" become weakened, they can swell with blood.

You can probably imagine how the stress of carrying a baby, and then pushing a baby out during vaginal delivery, can cause the veins to pop out (ok, enough with the bad puns). Additionally, all the hormones going through the mom's body affect how it works. Pregnant mothers have an increased production of the hormone progesterone, which also causes veins to relax, which leads to--you guessed it--even more swelling.

For several reasons, moms are also prone to experience constipation after birth. This constipation can start a vicious cycle of needing to exert pressure to go, which flares up the hemorrhoids, which can cause fear of going and retaining stool, which causes even harder stools, which flares the hemorrhoids, etc.

How Can I Treat Hemorrhoids at Home?

There are several things you can do to treat your hemorrhoids at home.

  • Apply ice wrapped in a soft pack. If you had a hospital or birth center delivery, you may have been able to bring home some of the postnatal ice packs.
  • Several times a day, try a sitz bath (again you may have received one in the hospital). If you didn't receive one, you can purchase one at the drug store. Alternatively, you could simply soak in the tub.
  • Alternate between the cold ice packs and the warm sitz baths.
  • Clean the area gently but thoroughly. Use a peri-bottle (squirt bottle) filled with warm water to cleanse the area. Rather than using dry toilet paper, pat the area with a wet wipe. Hemorrhoid pads that contain witch hazel are often recommended as well.
  • Any hygiene products that you use (toilet paper, menstrual pads, etc.) should be unscented and not dyed.
  • Talk to your doctor about possible over-the-counter hemorrhoid treatments, such as topical ointments and suppositories. Be sure you know how long it's okay to use the product (most should not be used for more than one week). Only use a product approved by your health care provider. This is exceptionally important if you've had an episiotomy or tear.
  • Lie down as much as you can to take the pressure off the area.
  • For temporary relief, you can take acetaminophen (name brand Tylenol) or ibuprofen (name brand Motrin) in the recommended dosage. Both are safe painkillers for breastfeeding mothers.

What Else Can I Do?

If you want to speed things along, there are a few other things you can do.

  • Avoid and/or treat constipation.
  • Use the bathroom when you have the urge to go. Don't "hold it" for fear of causing more pain. The longer you wait, the harder your stool may get and the more going might aggravate your hemorrhoids.
  • Do Kegel exercises to strengthen your perineum area.

When Should I Call a Doctor About My Hemorrhoids?

If you are being diligent in your home treatment, you should notice gradual improvement within the weeks following the birth. However, if your hemorrhoids are aggressively persistent or if you experience rectal bleeding, you definitely want to talk to your doctor or midwife. In some cases, women may need to consult a specialist. Even more rarely, surgery may be required.

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