With a horrible-sounding name, hemorrhoids are one of the most common complaints of pregnant women. Many are likely to develop hemorrhoids for the first (and only) time during pregnancy and they can be quite painful and uncomfortable. Hemorrhoids are actually a form of varicose veins that shows up in the rectal region. In varicose veins, the vein becomes swollen and can be itchy or painful. Although hemorrhoids are a common pregnancy malady, there are ways women can cope:
The increased presence of progesterone in a pregnant woman’s body causes the relaxing of many muscles, as well as the walls surrounding the veins, which can cause them to swell. Additionally, increased pressure from an enlarging uterus puts pressure on veins and blood flow in the pelvic region. Constipation (which can also be more likely during pregnancy) also contributes to hemorrhoids, or can further aggravate a hemorrhoid problem that existed prior to pregnancy.
Is there anything that can be done to treat and/or prevent hemorrhoids during pregnancy? While some women and some pregnancies just seem to be more likely to contribute to hemorrhoids, there are things women can do to minimize the condition or try to prevent these veins from swelling. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of roughage to avoid constipation may help prevent or delay the onset of hemorrhoids. Additionally, as the fetus grows and the uterus expands, women can also avoid sitting or standing in the same position for long periods of time as this puts pressure on the veins in the pelvic area. Doctors will suggest lying on the left side so as to increase blood flow to the area and avoid putting too much pressure on the most significant veins.
As for treatment of hemorrhoids during pregnancy, alternating warmth/heat and cool compresses can help. Soaking in a warm bath may provide relief and some women use an ice pack or a cool/cold compress helps to relieve some of the swelling. Check with a doctor or health care professional before using any creams or ointments that are available over-the-counter to find one that is safe. Most of these topical products are not recommended for extended use (for example, the duration of a pregnancy) so you may need to avoid them for the bulk of the pregnancy. Additionally, if you have any bleeding from the rectal area or extreme pain that cannot be relieved, you should consult your physician or medical professional. Pregnancy hemorrhoids will usually clear up on their own after the birth, but in some more severe cases surgery or other medical treatment may be necessary.