Hemorrhoids and pregnancy

By Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN on December 04, 2013

Say the word “hemorrhoid” and chances are you’ll be met with uncomfortable looks. However, there’s also a good chance that the people around you know exactly what you're talking about. Doctors don’t know exactly how many people have hemorrhoids, but they know that many do. People tend not to report hemorrhoids unless they are causing problems. Some groups of people are more prone to developing the condition and it’s estimated that at least 25 to 35 percent of women who are pregnant or who have just had a vaginal delivery develop them. Hemorrhoids are enlarged and swollen blood vessels that can range from pea-size to much larger. They can be internal, not seen, or outside the anal opening.

Pregnant women are at risk for developing hemorrhoids for three main reasons:

  • Pressure from the uterus on the pelvic veins, which make it hard for the blood to freely flow
  • An increase in the hormone progesterone, which affects the vein walls; and
  • Constipation, which leads to  straining.

Signs of Hemorrhoids

If you feel pain or burning when you are moving your bowels, see some bright red blood on your toilet tissue, or there is a feeling of fullness in your anus even if you are not having a bowel movement, you may have hemorrhoids. If you have external hemorrhoids, you may be able to feel them when wiping.

Getting Relief

If hemorrhoids are causing pain or discomfort, here are some tricks to try for some relief.

  • Drink enough water and fluids, and eat high-fibre foods to make it easier for stool to pass through the anus.
  • Be very gentle, perhaps using moistened paper, when cleaning after a bowel movement.
  • Apply witch hazel to the hemorrhoid.
  • Use an ice pack periodically for about 20 minutes at a time. This may help reduce the swelling, which in turn will decrease the pain.
  • Soak in warm water using a Sitz bath or your tub. 
  • Alternate the ice and heat treatments.
  • Ask your doctor or midwife about over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams or suppositories, or stool softeners. 

If you are in too much pain, there is bleeding, or you have tried these methods and you don’t feel any improvement, it would be best to call your doctor or midwife for advice.

Battling the Bumps

Although there’s no guarantee you won’t get hemorrhoids, there are things you can do to reduce your risk. 

  • Eat a balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluid that helps you avoid constipation.
  • Try not to strain if you are having difficulty moving your bowels.
  • Perform Kegel exercises regularly to strengthen the pelvic floor, and try to avoid sitting or standing for long periods.
  • Avoid standing or sitting in one position for long periods.

By Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN| December 04, 2013

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