Prevent or Treat Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy

Causes, Treatment, and Prevention in Expectant Mothers

Pregnant Hispanic woman touching her belly
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Hemorrhoids, the inflamed and swollen veins of the rectum and anus, are fairly common in pregnancy. They are not only painful, they can persist and often worsen as the pregnancy progresses.

Hemorrhoids will most often develop in later pregnancy as the blood volume increases and the uterus is pressed against the wall of the pelvis. This, in turn, can cause the veins of the anus or rectum to swell into grape-like clusters. Hemorrhoids happen predominately in the third trimester but tend to resolve quickly after birth.

Hemorrhoids and Constipation

Hemorrhoids that occur during pregnancy are further aggravated by constipation. The passing of hard stools not only scrapes and damages already inflamed tissue, the straining of the bowel can cause the formation of even more hemorrhoids.

The avoidance of constipation is, therefore, important during the latter stages of pregnancy. There are severals ways you can do this:

  • Eat a high fiber diet which includes 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber per day from fruits, vegetables, whole grain bread, bran, and breakfast cereal
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
  • Moderate your use of caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, or cola
  • Avoid alcohol (already contraindicated in pregnancy)
  • Avoid fried foods, high-fat dairy products, chips, and store-bought cookies and pastries
  • Eat dried fruits or drink prune juice

If you already have constipation, try using a warm water enema to help evacuate the bowels. It can help minimize the abrasion while preventing the straining that can worsen the situation.

If needed, you can turn to laxatives and stool softeners for short-term relief. If you are taking an iron supplement, speak with your doctor as constipation is the most common side effect associated with its use.

Other Treatments

Sitting or standing for long periods of time only places added pressure on the pelvis during pregnancy and can lead to the development or worsening of hemorrhoids.

If you are required to sit at a desk for hours at a time, be sure to get up every 30 minutes or so to stretch and walk around. If, on the other hand, you need to stand on your feet for long periods of time (say, at a checkout counter or convention both), ask for a bar-height stool to sit on.

Staying off your feet for long periods of time should not suggest you remain sedentary. In fact, one of the best ways to prevent hemorrhoids is to exercise. Exercising keeps waste moving through the intestines rather than allow it to consolidate and harden. Focus on moderate exercise and avoid things like weightlifting squats which can place excessive pressure on the anus and rectum.

You may already have hemorrhoids, there are so things you can do to relieve the itching and pain:

  • Use a hemorrhoid preparation (such as Preparation H or Anusol)
  • Buy a sitz bath, a mini-tub that fit over your toilet which allows you to run warm water over the hemorrhoids for cleansing and relief
  • Try using witch hazel or witch hazel pads (such as Tucks)
  • Avoid straining on the toilet (rather go when only you need to go)

Since hemorrhoids tend to get better after birth, surgery is probably not an option worth considering unless they are particularly severe. In such case, speak with a specialist about the types of surgical and non-surgical procedures which may be right for you.

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