Hemorrhoids and Pregnancy: Are They Related?
Pregnancy is hard enough as it is. Add in hemorrhoids, and you may find yourself downright miserable.
Why do hemorrhoids so often crop up during pregnancy? Do the two conditions naturally go together, or is it just bad luck?
It’s not that you’re unlucky. Rather, there’s a clear link between hemorrhoids and pregnancy. Fortunately, the more you know about this connection, the better you can address it.
Hemorrhoids and Pregnancy
Hemorrhoids happen when blood vessels in your rectal area become inflamed. They swell and bulge out of place.
There isn’t one sole cause of pregnancy hemorrhoids. Rather, several key factors work together to inflame your rectal veins during pregnancy.
As your uterus and the baby inside grow, they push down on the veins around your rectum. If you began your pregnancy overweight, the effect of your growing uterus may be compounded.
This pressure is a key reason for hemorrhoids in pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. The increased weight squeezes your veins so that it’s harder for blood to flow freely. Instead, it may start to pool in one spot. That leads to the swollen, bulging blood vessels known as hemorrhoids.
Many women experience constipation during pregnancy. Hormones slow down the activity of your bowels. Also, your prenatal vitamin probably contains iron, which can further slow down your digestion. Dehydration and pressure from your growing baby may contribute to pregnancy constipation as well.
When you’re constipated, you may sit on the toilet for long stretches and bear down in an attempt to pass stool. Those activities may lead directly to hemorrhoids.
Pressure from your developing fetus isn’t the only reason for blood flow changes during pregnancy. To nourish and support your baby, your body starts to direct more blood to your pelvis. The rectum isn't far from there. The extra blood in this area may contribute to the development of hemorrhoids.
The hormone progesterone courses through your body during pregnancy. It keeps your uterus relaxed so that you won’t experience contractions too soon. It also loosens your joints and muscles in preparation for delivery.
Progesterone affects other parts of your body as well. That can include your blood vessels. As your rectal veins relax, it might not take much pressure for hemorrhoids to develop.
To hear from a doctor about pregnancy hemorrhoids, watch this video:
You might hope that your elevated hemorrhoid risk will end as soon as you go into labor. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Hemorrhoids are common for the first month after giving birth.
Your pelvic region goes through a lot of trauma during childbirth. Hemorrhoids may develop as a result. The chance of hemorrhoids is highest in women who spend at least 20 minutes in the pushing phase of delivery.
Also, constipation is a frequent postpartum issue. Hemorrhoids can be an unfortunate side effect.
Hemorrhoid Prevention in Pregnancy
While there's no surefire method for preventing pregnancy hemorrhoids, there are some strategies that may reduce your risk.
1. Stay hydrated.
Drinking plenty of water can help keep your bowel movements soft and regular. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says to drink at least 8 cups of water a day during pregnancy. You may need up to 12 cups a day to stay fully hydrated.
2. Include fiber in your diet.
Fiber helps keep things moving through your digestive tract. You might need to up your intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. You can also talk to your obstetrician about taking a fiber supplement.
3. Change positions frequently.
Staying in one position for too long can increase the pressure on your rectum. Instead of sitting for long stretches, it’s good to move around and get some light exercise.
This also means that you shouldn’t spend too much time on the toilet. Go when you feel the urge, but don’t linger if a bowel movement doesn’t happen right away.
Pregnancy Hemorrhoid Treatment
Hemorrhoids are unpleasant, so you may be anxious to find relief. With home care and your doctor’s help, you may start feeling better soon.
Lifestyle adjustments and home treatments are usually recommended for hemorrhoid management during pregnancy.
The tips that work for hemorrhoid prevention can also help ease hemorrhoid flare-ups. Additionally, you can sit on ice packs and apply witch hazel pads. Soaking in a warm bath, with or without Epsom salts, soothes the anal area too.
You should discuss the options with your doctor.
If your hemorrhoid problem doesn’t clear up on its own after you’ve recovered from childbirth, it may be time for a different approach.
Of course, new moms may not have much time to spare for surgery recovery. Fortunately, hemorrhoid ligation is a minimally invasive procedure, and the recovery doesn’t take long for most patients.
During a quick office visit, your doctor will use an Adler Ligator to place a band around the hemorrhoid. You can go home right after the procedure. Over the next few days or weeks, the hemorrhoid will dry up and fall off. You might not even notice it happening.
Help for Your Pregnancy Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids and pregnancy are an all-too-common combination. Unfortunately, the changes in your body during pregnancy make it easy for hemorrhoids to develop.
While it can be miserable at the time, there is hope. Home remedies will help you feel better during pregnancy, and treatment with the Adler Ligator can clear up your hemorrhoids for good after giving birth.
As with all medical issues, your physician is the ultimate source as to what procedure best fits your needs. Discuss all options and get a second opinion if you have any doubts. These articles are intended to be a source of general information only.