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Hemorrhoids are swollen veins that develop around the anus. When they occur, they can cause pain and bleeding. Anyone can develop hemorrhoids, but pregnant women are at higher risk
According to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), up to 50% of pregnant women develop hemorrhoids. According to an article in World of Gastroenterology, hemorrhoids are common during the third trimester.
Healthcare providers divide hemorrhoids into two different types— internal and external hemorrhoids.
Internal hemorrhoids may require treatment, including medication or non-operative methods, such as rubber band ligation. However, external hemorrhoids do not require treatment unless they cause discomfort.
This article will discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment options available for hemorrhoids during pregnancy.
The symptoms may vary depending on whether the hemorrhoids are external or internal.
Internal hemorrhoids form inside the rectum.
- Rectal bleeding: A person may notice bright red blood on the toilet paper or in the toilet bowl.
- Prolapsed hemorrhoid: This occurs when an internal hemorrhoid falls through the anus due to straining.
If a person has a prolapsed hemorrhoid, they may experience pain and discomfort. Otherwise, internal hemorrhoids are not typically painful.
Increasing pressure from the growing uterus can also cause hemorrhoids to become distended.
External hemorrhoids form on the outside of the anus.
Symptoms may include:
- itching around the anus
- painful, hard lumps near the anus
- aching anus or pain that worsens when sitting
The hemorrhoids may bleed or become more painful if a person strains or aggravates them too much.
Symptoms may disappear after a few days.
When veins function normally, blood flows through them, traveling in one direction. Extra weight and pressure on the pelvis can cause the veins to swell in the lower body causing unpleasant issues, such as hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are common during pregnancy, and according to the OWH, reasons include:
- pressure from the increasing weight of the developing fetus and uterus on the pelvis
- increased blood volume
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Health Information Center, other common causes of hemorrhoids include:
- chronic constipation
- straining during bowel movements
- a low fiber diet
- sitting on the toilet for prolonged periods
- lifting heavy objects
- the weakening of supportive tissue around the anus
Hemorrhoids due to pregnancy may gradually resolve by themselves after delivery. However, a woman can relieve the symptoms by:
- consuming more fiber in their diet
- doing Kegel exercises
- lying on the left side
- using a donut cushion
- taking fiber supplements
- using stool softeners
- taking mild laxatives
- ice packs or a cold compress
- applying witch hazel to external hemorrhoids using gauze or cotton
A person can purchase a donut cushion here.
A pregnant woman can also have a sitz bath. A sitz bath may help to alleviate the symptoms of hemorrhoids, before and after birth.
A person can purchase a sitz bath online here.
Although mild laxatives, stool softeners, and fiber supplements are generally safe for pregnant women to use, topical ointments may not be safe.
Pregnant women should talk to their doctor about which medications are safe for them to use.
If a pregnant woman is experiencing a large amount of bleeding, a healthcare provider may suggest anal packing, which is an internal dressing.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove the hemorrhoids.
Prevention of hemorrhoids during pregnancy is not always possible.
However, it might be possible to prevent hemorrhoids by:
- eating high fiber foods
- drinking water
- avoiding straining during a bowel movement
- avoiding heavy lifting
- avoiding sitting on the toilet for prolonged periods
A pregnant woman should see a doctor if the symptoms of hemorrhoids become painful and interfere with daily life.
A person should also see a doctor if:
- the hemorrhoid becomes thrombosed, or becomes bluish
- symptoms worsen
- heavy bleeding occurs
Women who are pregnant should talk to a doctor before starting home treatments for hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are common during pregnancy, typically during the third trimester.
This is usually due to constipation, increasing pressure on the pelvis, and an increase in blood volume.
Symptoms typically include itching, rectal bleeding, and painful lumps.
Treatment usually involves managing symptoms at home with cold packs, warm baths, or over-the-counter creams and ointments. A woman should talk to her doctor before taking any medication or ointment for her symptoms to make sure they are safe.
Following pregnancy, the hemorrhoids should start to resolve by themselves. If they do not resolve, or they get worse, a woman should talk to a doctor about additional treatment options, such as surgery.