Anticipating a baby is one of life’s greatest joys. What is not so joyful are the hemorrhoids that often accompany pregnancy. Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the anal and rectal area that can become itchy and inflamed because of poor circulation and increased pressure from the uterus. Hemorrhoids often appear in the third trimester when blood vessels around the pelvic floor are strained the most. They also can appear during pushing in the second stage of labor.
Another cause for hemorrhoids is that the body releases an increased amount of progesterone during pregnancy. Progesterone causes the walls of blood vessels to relax which makes them swell, and it also slows down the intestinal tract which can cause constipation. Pregnancy-related hemorrhoids usually go away after the baby is born, but sometimes they linger and can cause recurrent discomfort (Source: Babycenter.com).
If you are pregnant, you can take preventative steps to avoid hemorrhoids. Because the pelvic vessels are already strained, you should make every effort to not increase the pressure on the veins around the anus and rectum. Here are a few easy steps to reduce strain on these areas:
- Take in at least 25 grams of fiber per day to create bulk in the intestines and promote regularity. Eat more insoluble fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.
- Drink more water! Water is essential for keeping stools soft.
- Use a small stepstool when using the restroom. Sometimes elevating the feet to a different angle makes all the difference in having an easier bowel movement.
- Avoid prolonged periods of sitting on the toilet—Wait until you are sure that you have to use the restroom. Sitting too long puts excessive strain on the blood vessels.
- Sleep on your left side at night. Side sleeping takes the pressure off the anus and rectum, prevents blood from pooling in the vessels and improves circulation
- Try eating more yogurt. The live cultures in yogurt promote good digestion. Activia is especially helpful and effective.
- Exercise. Talk to your doctor about safe exercises to do during pregnancy.
Sometimes pregnancy-related hemorrhoids are unavoidable. Follow the list above to prevent symptoms from worsening, but try a few of these home remedies to help relieve the discomfort of hemorrhoids:
- Take a sitz bath to ease itching and pain.
- Buy some witch hazel from a local drug store and saturate a cotton pad with the astringent. Change compresses often.
- Use ice packs to reduce swelling in the anal area.
- Try using perfume-free, pre-moistened wipes instead of toilet paper.
Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor for more information. Pregnancy-related hemorrhoids can be uncomfortable, but they’re a small price to pay for your little bundle of joy!