Some women develop itchy, painful varicose veins in the rectum after birth. Here’s what you need to know about managing postpartum hemorrhoids.

By Karen J. Bannan and Nicole Harris
JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Hemorrhoids are enlarged veins of the anus and rectum. Many women get hemorrhoids for the first time during pregnancy, but they’re also common after delivery because of the intense pressure of pushing. Constipation (another common postpartum complaint) also exaggerates hemorrhoids after birth.

You're at increased risk of postpartum hemorrhoids if you had them during your pregnancy, but they can happen to anyone, says Constance Bohon, M.D., an OB-GYN in Washington, D.C. Hemorrhoids can be internal or external—but either way, they usually aren’t dangerous for the new mom.

Here’s what you need to know about symptoms and treatment for postpartum hemorrhoids.

Symptoms of Postpartum Hemorrhoids

How will you know you have hemorrhoids after labor ? Most women report discomfort around their rectum. Occasionally, the hemorrhoid is visible—it looks like a pink pea is sticking out of your bottom. Other side effects are itching, burning, and pain, says Jeanne Faulkner, R.N. They may also bleed, especially after a bowel movement

How to Treat Postpartum Hemorrhoids

Doctors may prescribe stool softeners and topical medications with hydrocortisone to alleviate swelling. Other treatment methods for hemorrhoids after birth include: 

  • Take a sitz bath for 15 minutes several times per day. These warm-water soaks should relieve discomfort. 
  • Wrap an ice pack in a towel, then place it on your hemorrhoids for 15-minute intervals to reduce swelling. You can also alternate between warm-water soaks and icing. 
  • Wipe your bottom with a witch hazel pad, or apply liquid witch hazel on a cold compress. The plant will help with itching and pain.
  • Rely on unscented, soft toilet paper to prevent further irritation.
  • Avoid constipation by eating fiber-rich foods and drinking plenty of water.

The majority of postpartum  hemorrhoids resolve on their own within a few days or weeks. Call your doctor if they aren’t improving after several days of home treatment. Also let him/her know if the pain or itching becomes intense, or if the vein looks purple or large, which may indicate a clot.

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