Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy

Hemorrhoids are a discomfort women often experience during pregnancy. According to the book What to Expect When You're Expecting (Murkoff, Eisenberg, & Hathaway, 2002) between 20 to 50 percent of pregnant women are afflicted by hemorrhoids. There are multiple reasons for this. Hormones from pregnancy cause the walls of veins to relax which results in the veins swelling and bulging with greater ease. There is an increased amount of blood flow and the weight of the growing uterus can restrict the flow of blood away from the lower half of the body. This can cause the blood to pool and the veins to swell.

Hemorrhoids are often a direct result of constipation. The pressure from bearing down to have a bowel movement causes the veins in the rectal area to swell and bulge. Pregnant woman are prone to become constipated. Certain hormones released during pregnancy cause the muscles in the intestine to relax and become sluggish. The sluggish intestines slow the removal of waste from the body thus resulting in constipation. Constipation can also be caused by the pressure of the growing uterus on the intestines, especially in later pregnancy. This pressure can greatly restrict the intestines normal functions.

What are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids, as defined by E Medicine Health, "are enlarged veins located in the lower part of the rectum and the anus." Hemorrhoids are the result of too much pressure on the veins in the rectal area. The veins swell and cause the area around them to swell also. Internal hemorrhoids are inside of the lining of the rectum and often go unnoticed. External hemorrhoids are often referred to as piles, because they are under the skin surrounding the anus and when swollen they resemble a pile of grapes or marbles.

What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?

Symptoms may include all or some of the following:

  • itching, bleeding, or pain in the anal area
  • swollen veins or lumps around the anus
  • bleeding during a bowel movement or on toilet tissue usually unaccompanied by pain
  • swollen veins protruding from the anal opening

Treating the symptoms of hemorrhoids

There is nothing that can be taken to make hemorrhoids go away. Here are some possible options to relieve the discomfort caused by hemorrhoids:

  • a sitz bath two times a day
  • witch hazel wipes
  • ice packs or alternating hot and cold on the area
  • wiping with moistened wipes can be soothing and less irritating than dry toilet paper

Preventing hemorrhoids

Don't sit or stand too long. Kegel exercises can be found to be helpful in keeping blood flowing the way it should. Avoid sleeping on your back. Don't strain to have a bowel movement. Also, avoid sitting on the toilet for a long period of time.

When hemorrhoids are caused by constipation, diet is the key to relieving the problem. Avoid foods that cause constipation such as cheese, ice cream, and processed food. Seek out foods that promote good bowel function such as yogurt with active cultures or foods high in fiber. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are all good sources of fiber. Fruit juices such as apple and prune juice may also be helpful. Also, and most importantly, drink plenty of water.

Exercise can help decrease the chance of constipation. A body that is moving promotes bowels that are moving. Do not suppress the urge to have a bowel movement. If it is done regularly it will actually make muscles weak and cause constipation.

Last Updated: January 29, 2016