Many women know the fear when sitting down or going to the bathroom during pregnancy, as if a seat with spikes awaits them. Hemorrhoids are one of the most frequent discomforts of pregnancy , often hidden by the “taboo” that they represent for many people, but they should not be overlooked.
Hemorrhoids, also called “piles,” are swollen pads of intestinal tissue in the area of the anus or lower rectum. These pads contain many arteries and veins, are very common, and result from increased pressure in the anus, which can happen during pregnancy, childbirth, or due to constipation.
Approximately 40% of pregnant women suffer from hemorrhoids at some stage of pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. Just as varicose veins in the legs are more likely to become inflamed during this period, the veins in the rectum are also under increased pressure.
Hemorrhoids can be inside or outside the body. If it is internal hemorrhoids, they occur just inside the anus, where the rectum begins. When they are large they can slip out (prolapse). The most common problem with internal hemorrhoids is bleeding during bowel movements, but they do not usually hurt as much as external hemorrhoids, and there may even be no discomfort.
External hemorrhoids appear outside the anus. They can cause difficulty when sitting, moving and especially when cleaning the area after a bowel movement. Thrombosed external hemorrhoids are more painful, as a blood clot forms in the tissue outside the anus.
Symptoms of hemorrhoids during pregnancy
The pressure that the rectal area receives, especially at the end of pregnancy, the slowing of circulation and perhaps constipation problems, cause the anal pads to swell and are very painful. One or more hard, tender bumps are seen in the anus area .
The swollen tissue can bleed (especially in the case of internal hemorrhoids) often during bowel movements, which can give a pregnant woman quite a shock. The bleeding is deep red. But, unlike vaginal bleeding during pregnancy , a rectal bleed does not mean that the baby is in danger.
More common are other annoying symptoms associated with external hemorrhoids: itching, burning and pain in the affected area. It often becomes difficult, not only to sit down, but also to walk, change position or find the right position to sleep… Going to the bathroom, as we have said, is also quite painful if there are hemorrhoids. Occasionally, there may also be bleeding.
In any case, if you are not sure if the bleeding is the result of hemorrhoids (and if they are internal, it often happens), consult your doctor, since in some cases rectal bleeding can be a sign of a serious illness. Better to have a specialist confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment and relief of hemorrhoids during pregnancy
The treatment for hemorrhoids includes different drugs and surgical intervention may even be necessary in severe cases, but during pregnancy we already know that the fewer medications, the better (and less, going through the operating room). Always consult a gynecologist if hemorrhoids are very painful. In some cases they may recommend topical medication or suppositories that do not pose a risk to the fetus.
But there are certain natural hemorrhoid reliefs that can work for you . Sitz baths with lukewarm water (if it is very cold or very hot, the symptoms worsen) are quite effective in temporarily relieving pain.
There are people who do well with the cold, for example by applying ice, but remember never to do it directly but wrap the ice in a cloth. Others will do better with hotter water. If it is the first time you suffer from them, you can alternate different temperatures to see which one is more soothing for you.
Using wet towels to clean yourself after bowel movements is much better than using toilet paper, which is less soft and, being dry, can hurt when rubbed.
With hemorrhoids, hygiene after defecation is paramount , since there are irregularities in the anal area that can leave traces of feces that increase itching. To do this, you can use warm running water, with the help of a mild soap and always touching the area gently. Cleaning will be done from the vagina to the anus, and care will be taken that the area is not wet.
Prevent hemorrhoids during pregnancy
Many women will suffer from them no matter how hard they try to avoid them, but for many others, these tips to prevent hemorrhoids during pregnancy will work .
Since the effort to defecate, constipation and spending a lot of time on the toilet increase the risk of hemorrhoids, we must ensure that the stool is soft. The trick is to maintain good hydration by drinking plenty of water and eating a diet rich in fiber . Lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains… The doctor can recommend a natural fiber supplement if we consider it necessary.
Other tips to avoid constipation during pregnancy include avoiding flatulent and astringent foods, trying to keep a schedule of meals and going to the bathroom, chewing food well, exercising daily…
Try to reduce the pressure in the anal area by sleeping and resting on your side and not on your back and also avoiding spending a lot of time standing or sitting…
On the other hand, cycling during pregnancy is contraindicated if the woman suffers from hemorrhoids. It is not that this exercise is going to cause them, but it does intensify the pain of those who suffer from them, since by resting the perineum and the anal area on the saddle, friction is produced that worsens the hemorrhoids.
Some exercises that will help improve circulation in the pelvic floor area are Kegel exercises, which are also very beneficial for other aspects during this stage.
If you have suffered from hemorrhoids during pregnancy , it is likely that you will also have them during the postpartum period . In this case, remember to maintain healthy hydration and eating habits and if the pain prevents you from leading a normal life, consult a gynecologist.