What are haemorrhoids and what makes them common during pregnancy?
Haemorrhoids (otherwise known as piles) are swollen blood vessels in the region of your bottom which can occur internally or externally. They can happen to anyone but are also fairly common during pregnancy - affecting around 35% of expectant mothers, particularly during the third trimester.
In the later stages of pregnancy, as your body prepares to deliver your new bundle of joy, the pregnancy hormone, progesterone, causes the walls of your blood vessels relax and swell up. On top of that, as your baby grows and your uterus becomes more enlarged, its increasing weight can put pressure on the surrounding areas, including your bottom, causing haemorrhoids.
Although they can be unpleasant, piles are not generally harmful to you or your baby and can be treated quite quickly.
Other common causes of haemorrhoids which may also affect you during pregnancy are over-straining during a bowel movement or when delivering the baby, constipation, and a low fibre diet.
You may find that your tastes and diet changes during pregnancy but it’s worth keeping in mind that eating enough fibre helps to keep stools soft, which keeps things moving through the digestive system. A low fibre diet can result in harder stools that are difficult to pass and even constipation, which in turn can lead to haemorrhoids.
You can read more about other causes of haemorrhoidshere.
How do I know if I have haemorrhoids?
You might not be aware of internal haemorrhoids unless they bleed or become prolapsed, however, external haemorrhoids occur closer to the surface of the bottom making them a lot more painful and itchy. You may feel them as small, sensitive lumps around the anus in addition to the other common symptoms of piles:
- Bright red blood after a bowel movement
- An itchy bottom (anus)
- The feeling of still needing to go to the toilet
- Mucus on underwear or after wiping
- Lumps or pain around the anus.
You can read more about the symptoms and different types of haemorrhoids here.
How can I treat haemorrhoids during pregnancy?
You may find that the symptoms of haemorrhoids continue throughout your pregnancy and that they come back after a period of time. However, there are some things you can do to help manage their recurrence:
A high fibre diet
Since diet and constipation can impact the likelihood of developing haemorrhoids, one way to help combat them during pregnancy is by making sure you drink plenty of water and eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes foods high in fibre. Some of the foods that are considered ‘good’ for haemhorroids are:
- Wholemeal bread
Here are some tips on the types of foods that can help you avoid piles.
There are also things you might be able to do to ease piles at home and make you feel more comfortable while you’re waiting for your baby to arrive. For example:
- Try not to stand for long periods
- Exercise regularly to improve your circulation
- Gently apply an ice pack or cloth dampened with iced water to ease the pain
- If the piles are protruding, gently push them back inside using a lubricating jelly
- Try not to strain when going to the toilet
- Clean your bottom with moist toilet paper, patting rather than rubbing the area
If you find the pain, itching, and general discomfort of piles unpleasant and bothersome, there are also a range of products available off-the-shelf that can help to soothe the symptoms and shrink the swelling.
Germoloids Cream, Ointment, and Suppositories can be used during pregnancy and breast-feeding and are formulated with a local anaesthetic that provides fast, numbing relief from the painful and itchy symptoms of haemorrhoids.
All Germoloids products also have astringent and antiseptic properties, helping to reduce the swelling, as well as protect sore, sensitive skin from infection.
It’s always best to speak to your doctor, midwife, or pharmacist for advice before using medicines during pregnancy as they’ll be able to guide you further if you have any questions. There’s no need to worry or feel embarrassed talking about haemorrhoids, they really are very common and healthcare professionals are used to talking about them.
You can also learn more about other haemorrhoids treatments here.