What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anal area. They can occur internally or externally, and vary in size from something about the size of a raisin to something the size of a grape. While some people report them being itchy, others will tell you they feel more like you are sitting on an angry hedgehog, which also happens to be on fire. Lame.
Why do they happen?
Unfortunately, hemorrhoids and pregnancy go hand in hand, for a couple of related reasons.
- Growing uterus. That big old, baby-filled uterus is heavy! Extra weight puts pressure on the veins in your rectal area, which we all now know increases your chance of getting your ‘rhoid on.
- Constipation can lead to straining, which puts more pressure on your aforementioned stretchy veins. Extra pressure + extra stretchy veins = prime conditions for a pile o’ piles.
- Progesterone, which increases during pregnancy and helps your body prepare for birth, also relaxes the walls of your veins. While being loosey goosey is great for your pelvic joints, extra stretch in your veins makes it easier for hemorrhoids to develop. ::sad trombone::
- Giving birth. And of course, there is childbirth, which although miraculous, can be absolutely brutal on all the bits and pieces that make up your nether regions.
How do you get rid of hemorrhoids during pregnancy?
Often times, you can treat hemorrhoids with products and methods that are safe to use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
- Take the pressure off. Sit on a donut, or in a chair that allows you to adjust where your tush hits the seat (think: rocking chair vs straight-backed chair).
- Keep clean. Use a peri-bottle or water wipes to clean the area, and to prevent irritation of sensitive tissue.
- Try pure aloe vera. Looks like a cactus, soothes like a snuggly kitten.
- Get your Elsa on. Use a carefully placed ice pack to provide comfort and reduce swelling.
- Spa day! Give your bum a warm Epsom salt bath in either a regular tub – or a Sitz bath if you don’t have time for a full on spa session.
- Meet your new BFFs, Tucks. With maximum strength witch hazel, Tucks reduce inflammation, provide comfort, and can be placed on a pad and worn throughout the day. Just don’t shake one out of your pant leg at the grocery store. Not that I’ve done it. Twice. DON’T JUDGE ME.
Can hemorrhoids be prevented?
There’s no guaranteed way to ensure you won’t unwillingly join team ‘Rhoid Ragers at some point during your pregnancy/postpartum adventure, but there are a few things you can do to help reduce your chances.
• Do what you can to prevent constipation. Drink ALL. THE. WATER. Eat fiber. Try to minimize the time you spend sitting on the toilet as much as you can. Don’t fight the urge, even if it means pooping in the preschool bathroom at pick up. You’re pregnant. You can literally do anything you want. (Okay, not literally, but almost literally.)
• Do yo’ Kegels. Increasing blood flow and toning your rectal muscles helps your veins stand up to all the increased pressure.
• Try not to spend your whole day standing. Gravity is great for keeping us tethered to our earthly abode, but it also puts those veins under pressure. Pressure is bad. Avoid the pressure.
Can they be cured?
While hemorrhoids don’t have an easy cure, most that result from pregnancy or childbirth resolve within 6 months of baby’s arrival. Some people report occasional flare-ups, while a very small portion of people who get real whoppers require minor surgery to repair them. But fear not! While hemorrhoids are super common, and super sucky, just like with anything pregnancy-related, they usually pass.