What's Up With Pregnancy Hemorrhoids?

Many women experience hemorrhoids for the first time during pregnancy. Find out what causes this form of varicose veins, and learn how to feel better.

Woman On Toilet Holding Toilet Paper
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Hemorrhoids are itchy, painful varicose veins in the rectum, and they're extremely common during pregnancy. According to Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., hemorrhoids aren't dangerous most of the time, but they're mighty unpleasant. Here's everything you need to know about diagnosing, preventing, and treating hemorrhoids while pregnant.

How Do You Get Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy hemorrhoids occur when blood vessels around your rectum become stretched and swollen. They might be caused by the increased pressure exerted on your veins by the weight of your uterus. Hormonal changes and constipation (another common pregnancy complaint) are also contributing factors. You can even get hemorrhoids from the intense pushing you'll do when delivering your baby.

What Do Hemorrhoids Look Like?

Two types of hemorrhoids can occur during pregnancy: internal and external. Internal hemorrhoids can cause painless, light-colored blood around your stool or on your toilet paper after wiping. Occasionally, these internal hemorrhoids can protrude, and you will feel soft swollen masses when wiping. On the other hand, external hemorrhoids can cause painful, hard lumps around your rectum.

What Do Hemorrhoids Feel Like?

According to Faulkner, pregnancy hemorrhoids feel "like a lump sticking out of your butt. They're itchy and painful; they burn and sometimes bleed."

Are Hemorrhoids Dangerous?

Although hemorrhoids are not dangerous to you or your baby, you should tell your doctor about any rectal bleeding that lasts more than a day or two. He or she will determine if you need to come into the office to have them checked out, or if a prescription will do the trick.

Pregnancy Hemorrhoids Prevention

"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. Keep in mind, though, that some women will take all preventative measures and still end up with hemorrhoids while pregnant.

How Long Do Hemorrhoids Last?

If you get a hemorrhoid flare-up, it will probably only last a few days, but during that time there are several ways to 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.

Even with these treatment methods, however, it's possible to have larger hemorrhoids that last several months. Take heart in the fact that hemorrhoids in pregnancy usually disappear in the weeks after the baby is born.

Updated by Nicole Harris
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