Haemorrhoids during pregnancy
Haemorrhoids can be an annoying but common complaint during pregnancy, affecting up to 50% of all pregnant women.
They are varicose veins around the anus which swell and become irritated during pregnancy. You may have heard them referred to as “piles” as sometimes they can resemble a pile of grapes around your back passage!
It is common during pregnancy because of the increasing blood volume and weight of the uterus, causing the veins in the rectal area to become swollen and form grape-like clusters.
How will I know if I have haemorrhoids?
You may experience any of the following around your anus
- Bleeding when passing a bowel motion
- Pressure/swelling sensation
- Able to feel a lump ranging from the size of a pea to a grape
Risk factors which increase your chance of getting haemorrhoids
- If you’ve had them prior to pregnancy
- Pregnancy. The hormone progesterone causes blood vessel walls to relax, allowing them to swell more easily. Combined with the growing weight of the uterus, this places more pressure on the rectal veins
- Sitting or standing for prolonged period increases the pressure on the rectal veins
- Pushing during the second stage of labour can sometimes increase your risk of having haemorrhoids after birth
How do I treat them?
Good thing to know is that usually once you have given birth, your symptoms will start to settle down. However there are plenty of things you can do to be pro-active and help to heal them faster
- Manage your constipation. If you want to learn more, check out my blog on constipation. Increase your fluid and fibre intake and make sure to exercise regularly. Don’t forget to “moo” on the toilet too (all is explained in my blog!)
- Limit prolonged standing and sitting. Try to make sure you regularly move around and change position. Horizontal rest (particularly lying on your left side) will help to relieve pressure on the rectal veins
- Baby wipes (unscented) instead of toilet paper may be more comfortable if you are finding it hard to clean the area without pain
- Soak in a tub of warm water for 10 mins to ease discomfort and improve circulation
- Ice packs or witch hazel pads can help temporarily to soothe any stinging or discomfort
- Pelvic floor exercises will help to strengthen the muscles around the anus and improve blood flow to this area
- Sitting on a donut cushion may help to alleviate pressure if you are in pain when sitting down
If you have tried all of the above and you’re managing your constipation well yet you’ve still got a lot of pain or discomfort then discuss this with your healthcare provider as there may be further medical options you can pursue to bring relief.
The joys of pregnancy!
xo Physio Laura