Hemorrhoids are itchy, painful varicose veins in the rectum, and they’re extremely common during pregnancy. According to Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., they feel “like a lump sticking out of your butt. They're itchy and painful; they burn and sometimes bleed.” Most of the time, hemorrhoids aren’t dangerous, but they're mighty unpleasant. Here’s everything you need to know about diagnosing, preventing, and treating pregnancy hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are caused by the increased pressure exerted on your veins by the weight of your uterus. During labor, the extreme strain of pushing your baby out also may lead to the formation of hemorrhoids. Once you've got them, these swollen veins can be made worse by constipation (another common pregnant complaint).
“You want to avoid getting hemorrhoids by drinking lots of extra fluids, and eating a high-fiber diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Exercise helps the intestines move things along. The bottom line: avoid constipation,” recommends Faulkner. Pregnant women also shouldn’t put on too much weight; stick to the guidelines given by your healthcare provider. What’s more, don't sit or stand for long periods without taking a break.
If you've done all that and you get them anyway, don't panic. There are plenty of ways to make your bottom feel better.
Relieve discomfort by wiping the affected area with witch hazel pads or applying an ice pack. Ease itching with a warm soak or sitz bath using an oatmeal bath product or baking soda. Look for toilet paper that's extra soft or pre-moistened, and ask your practitioner about which over-the-counter hemorrhoid remedies are safest to use during pregnancy. Finally, take heart in the fact that hemorrhoids usually disappear in the weeks after the baby is born.
If you're in a lot of pain or they're bleeding, call your doctor. He or she will determine if you need to come in to the office to have them checked out, or if a prescription will do the trick.