While there are so many upsides of pregnancy, along the way you come to realise there are also some pretty annoying downsides too. One of those downsides has to be haemorrhoids or piles as they are sometimes called.
Don’t worry, they’re super common and nothing to fret about beyond being annoying and uncomfortable.
What are haemorrhoids?
Haemorrhoids are swollen veins or blood vessels (or varicose veins) in the anus or rectum, and while common throughout pregnancy, they generally occur most often in the third trimester.
They can vary in size, from as small as a pea to as large as a grape and may remain internal or they can also be external. They also vary in how they affect the individual, from itching and uncomfortable to stinging, pain and can sometimes lead to bleeding (especially after a bowel movement).
Why do they occur during pregnancy?
While all pregnant women are susceptible to haemorrhoids, if you had them pre-pregnancy, then you’re probably more likely to get them when you are.
As your pregnancy progresses and the baby grows larger, it puts pressure on your pelvis and the veins near your anus and rectum. Combined with an increase in progesterone (the hormone that relaxes all your muscles), this also relaxes these veins, and the increased blood volume can make them prone to swelling.
Constipation also makes you more prone to suffering haemorrhoids, due to the straining and pushing that often comes with hard bowel movements. If you are taking iron supplements these can contribute to constipation.
If you do manage to avoid haemorrhoids during pregnancy, you may still get them during labour, while you are pushing.
How can you prevent haemorrhoids?
There are a number of ways you can try to prevent and manage haemorrhoids during pregnancy, such as:
- Avoiding constipation – make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fibre (so plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts).
- Also, make sure you are drinking plenty of water every day.
- Exercise is also vital to help everything down there stay healthy so make sure you are doing at least some form of gentle exercise every day.
- If you find you are not getting enough fibre in your diet you may need to look at taking a fibre supplement or stool softener, but always speak with your doctor before taking anything.
- Make sure you go to the toilet as soon as you feel the urge coming on so you don’t miss your window of opportunity, which can then make it harder to go. However, avoid sitting on the toilet for too long as this stretches and puts pressure on the area. If you can’t go, don’t force it.
- You may also like to use a stool or something to put your feet on while you go to the toilet, which may help you pass a bowel movement more easily.
- Do your Kegels – these will not only help your bladder but also help maintain a healthy bowel.
- Avoid/limit iron supplements where possible – speak with your doctor if you are on iron supplements and you are suffering from constipation, they will help you decide the best course of action.
- Don’t sit or stand for too long at a time – being too sedentary is not good for your bowels nor is standing in one stop for too long, so make sure you are mixing up your positions and movements throughout the day.
- Lie on your side when sleeping or resting on the couch as this will help increase blood flow and take pressure off that area.
How to treat haemorrhoids
If you do still manage to get haemorrhoids, your treatment will vary depending on their severity. Speak with your doctor first to identify that there is in fact haemorrhoids and they will advise the best course of action.
For minor haemorrhoids, you may find a simple at-home treatment of warm baths and cooling clothes or ice packs enough to ease itching and discomfort while they heal themselves.
In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend a topical cream or medication to treat the area.