Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy
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While many women joke about pregnancy being a total “pain in the butt,” hemorrhoids can literally be just that! However, with a little information, you can learn how to recognize, treat, and even prevent this super common pregnancy side effect at home. You don’t have to suffer in silence, especially during a time of your life that should make you feel beautiful and powerful! Let’s get right to the “bottom” line…
In this article:
- What Are Hemorrhoids?
- What Causes Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy?
- Are Hemorrhoids Common During Pregnancy?
- How To Treat Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy
- How To Prevent Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy
- Do Hemorrhoids Go Away After Pregnancy?
- When To Contact a Doctor About Hemorrhoids
What Are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoid is just a big, medical word for a tiny blood vessel that becomes swollen around your anus (AKA, butt). They can happen both on the outside and on the inside of your anus, so you can have the symptoms without also having that telltale, annoying lump. They can be either really small (think, raisin) or up to the size of a large grape!
Other common symptoms of hemorrhoids in pregnancy include:
- Anal itching
- Anal burning
- Painful bowel movements
- Bright red blood when wiping after a bowel movement
What Causes Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy?
Hemorrhoids can often just feel like a punishment, but they do have a biological cause!
The reason they seem to pop up more frequently during pregnancy is directly related to your baby bump. As your baby grows, especially during the third trimester, your uterus is also getting heavier. The bigger your baby gets, the more pressure he or she is causing your uterus to put on some of the veins in your pelvis. This can make those veins bulge as they try to adjust, while also slowing the blood’s ability to leave the lower half of your body, which is what leads to hemorrhoids.
In addition, while you’re pregnant, your body starts to produce more of a specific hormone called progesterone. Progesterone, which some people just call the “pregnancy hormone,” helps your uterus stay calm and carry on for those nine months. This means that all the veins in the uterus are also relaxed, which makes them tend to get swollen much more easily. Your body also just generally produces more blood when you’re pregnant, too!
Although most hemorrhoids just happen, the number one thing pregnant women do to “cause” their own hemorrhoids is pushing down too hard while pooping. Unfortunately, with 45% of pregnant women dealing with constipation (mainly due to iron supplementation), difficult bowel movements are an all too common complaint. The sad result of that combination is, with already relaxed and sensitive veins, applying just a little bit more pressure can cause them to pop right out and voila! Hemorrhoids.
Are Hemorrhoids Common During Pregnancy?
Even though hemorrhoids aren’t something pregnant women openly talk about, estimates show that between 25% and 85% report having them. They also tend to be more common in women who have not had a baby before, as well as pregnant women of Yugoslavian descent. If you know 2 other pregnant women, the odds are good that at least one of you is dealing with them. You are definitely not alone!
How To Treat Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy
There are a few ways you can help safely soothe your hemorrhoids during all three trimesters of pregnancy.
One of the best ways is also a good one for your mental health - just take a bath! To make your very own sitz bath (sitz means “to sit”), simply fill your bathtub up with lukewarm water. If you don’t feel like taking a full bath, just a few inches of water will do the trick. However, when you do take a bath to help treat your hemorrhoids, make sure not to add any soaps or bubble bath. The fragrance can actually make the sensitive skin there even itchier. However, non-scented Epsom salts are fine. It only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to start feeling some relief, but feel free to soak longer if you just need a break! Self-care is so important in pregnancy.
Witch hazel pads (“Tucks” pads), can also help give you a little bit of relief without the time commitment. You just use them directly to your anal area and let them sit for a few minutes. Ice packs (with a protective cover) also work much the same way, by reducing swelling and temporarily minimizing pain.
How To Prevent Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy
The best way to prevent hemorrhoids during pregnancy is sometimes one of the hardest changes to make! We all know that food cravings are serious business and any attempts to change your diet might end up in a full, hormonal meltdown. However, if you are able to increase the number of fruits and veggies you eat, the extra fiber can help prevent hemorrhoids. More water can also help you not get as constipated, which is one of the common causes of hemorrhoids. You should aim to drink around eight glasses every day!
Another way to help stop hemorrhoids from becoming a problem is also helpful in maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy. Being active is one of the best preventatives, especially because one of the causes of hemorrhoids is sitting for extended periods of time.
If you start having trouble going to the bathroom, you may want to speak to your physician about a pregnancy approved stool softener (NOT a laxative). A fiber supplement (check with your doctor first for recommendations) can also help.
Lying down instead of sitting down as much as possible can also help prevent hemorrhoids by taking a lot of direct pressure off your butt. Try to lie down when you watch TV or relax, and sleep on your side if you can as well! Every little bit helps.
Do Hemorrhoids Go Away After Pregnancy?
While a lot of hemorrhoids do go away on their own after you have a baby, don’t expect any immediate miracles. A lot of times, especially with a vaginal delivery instead of a c-section, the increased pressure from pushing your baby out can make them even worse at first.
In addition, some of the pain meds you may be prescribed after delivery can end up causing constipation. This makes it extra important for you to keep taking a stool softener, even in the postpartum period!
Some studies show that roughly 25% of the women that had hemorrhoids during pregnancy will still be dealing with them six months after they have their baby. In the majority of women, though, they will shrink and completely go away. So don’t give up hope!
When To Contact a Doctor About Hemorrhoids
First and foremost, if you have any unexplained bleeding during your pregnancy, you should always visit your doctor to rule out any other potentially scary medical issues. It can be easy to mistake vaginal bleeding for rectal bleeding, and vice versa, so it’s best to get a professional opinion as soon as possible.
If you have already been diagnosed with hemorrhoids, though, and none of the at-home treatments are helping, it’s also time to give your doctor a call! While there are a lot of different medications on the market, not many of them have been proven safe in pregnancy. However, your doctor will know best! With your doctor’s approval, Anusol, 1% Hydrocortisone, and Preparation H can be very helpful in making your life with hemorrhoids less miserable before they resolve.
Hemorrhoids can also become “thrombosed,” where a blood clot actually forms inside of it. While blood clots in many places in the body can be deadly, thrombosed hemorrhoids are just hard and super painful. If your hemorrhoid suddenly becomes unbearably painful when you sit or walk, or if you develop a fever, you should definitely see your doctor.
In the worst-case scenario, hemorrhoids can be “banded.” Although this isn’t comfortable to endure, it will cause the hemorrhoid to fall off in 10 - 12 days. Additional options, like hemorrhoidectomy (surgical removal) and stapledhemorrhoidopexy (stapling it back inside) are available after delivery and breastfeeding are over.
So, what is the bottom line when it comes to hemorrhoids during pregnancy?
A few simple adjustments, like with your diet (increased water and fiber) and activity level (sit less, walk more), can help stop them from rearing their ugly heads in most cases. If they do become a problem, you can usually get relief easily and fairly inexpensively without even having to leave your house (baths, Tucks pads, and stool softeners). And remember, you don’t have to suffer alone! Hemorrhoids are a very common issue in pregnancy, and it’s totally fine to talk to your other pregnant friends about them! However, always make sure that you check with your doctor if your hemorrhoids suddenly become more painful, if you have trouble sitting or walking, or before you try any new medications during your pregnancy.
While many parts of pregnancy can really feel like a giant pain in the butt, dealing with hemorrhoids doesn’t have to be. Now go out there and be the glowing, radiant pregnancy woman you were meant to be! Don’t let this small, annoying stumbling block take one more second of this special time of your life.
Harvard Health Publishing, Hemorrhoids and what to do about them, February 2019.
WebMD, Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy, January 2019.
National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Hemorrhoids in pregnancy, February 2008.
Mayo Clinic, What can I do to treat hemorrhoids during pregnancy?, August 2019.
- Melinda Hany