Hemorrhoids during pregnancy can be uncomfortable. They’re also incredibly common. Here’s what causes them and how to find relief.
You may have known that frequent bathroom trips, nausea, and tender breasts would be part of your journey.
But hemorrhoids during pregnancy? Is this on the symptom list?
Yep, unfortunately, it is.
So much so that it’s estimated that hemorrhoids affect as many as 25-35% of pregnant women.
And hemorrhoids and giving birth are related, too.
That’s because the pushing process during labor may spur them on.
So the first thing to know is that you’re most certainly not alone in this.
(Pssst. You’re not alone in anything during pregnancy. Join us on Peanut. We’re having the conversation.)
But although hemorrhoids during pregnancy are common, it doesn’t mean you have to simply suffer through them.
If you think you have hemorrhoids, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider so that they can rule out anything more serious and so that you can get the help you need.
So, what exactly are hemorrhoids, what causes them during pregnancy, and most importantly, what can you do about them?
In this article: 📝
- What are hemorrhoids?
- What causes hemorrhoids during pregnancy?
- What do pregnancy hemorrhoids look like?
- Will pregnancy hemorrhoids go away?
- How to treat hemorrhoids during pregnancy
What are hemorrhoids?
Also called piles, hemorrhoids are swollen or irritated blood vessels or veins in and around your lower rectum (the lowest bit of your large intestine) and anus (the opening).
They can be:
- Internal, meaning they’re inside your anus.
- External, meaning they’re under the skin outside of your anus.
Hemorrhoids affect about 1 in 20 Americans of all genders and are particularly common when you’re pregnant.
The symptoms include:
- Itching and aching in the area around your anus.
- Swelling around the anus.
- Painful poops.
- Mucus in your poop.
- A noticeable lump that hangs out of your anus after you poop. (While perhaps not one of the most glamorous jobs in your life, this lump can be pushed back inside using lubricating jelly.)
- Bleeding after pooping.
What causes hemorrhoids during pregnancy?
Hemorrhoids are common in the third trimester of pregnancy.
That growing baby and uterus can put pressure on the veins in the area.
Plus, all that increased blood flow that heads to your pelvic area to support this remarkable operation causes the veins around your anus to swell.
Another factor? Pregnancy constipation. It’s common.
One of the main culprits for constipation during pregnancy is progesterone.
This hormone that is so vital for supporting your pregnancy also has the effect of relaxing the digestive system so that it doesn’t quite work at the same pace.
The longer your food takes from food bowl to toilet bowl, the less moisture it retains, and the harder it may be to pass as a poop.
Straining can put added pressure on those veins.
But while hemorrhoids can be uncomfortable—particularly in conjunction with the other symptoms you may be experiencing right now—there is no evidence that hemorrhoids can harm your baby.
Treating them is more about finding relief for you.
It’s particularly important to get to a doctor if:
- Your hemorrhoids have become thrombosed. This means that a blood clot has formed that further obstructs blood flow and causes the tissue in the area to swell. If your hemorrhoid is painful and dark blue, it could be thrombosed.
- You have a prolapsed hemorrhoid, which is an internal hemorrhoid that has bulged outside the anus. These can be painful. You may be able to push them back in, but it’s still a good idea to get to the doctor.
- You experience very painful hemorrhoids during pregnancy. Any severe pain is a reason to get to the doctor.
- Heavy bleeding hemorrhoids during pregnancy also need medical attention.
The good news is, there’s help on the way!
What do pregnancy hemorrhoids look like?
You may not be able to see hemorrhoids at all, but the ones that are visible look like red or blue rubbery lumps.
They are easier to spot if they become swollen or inflamed.
Internal hemorrhoids, because of their location, are particularly difficult to see.
Sometimes, they might pop out of the anus (prolapsed hemorrhoids), and you will be able to see them that way.
You may first know you have them from seeing blood when you poop.
External hemorrhoids may be easier to spot as bumps around your anus.
If you’re uncertain, the best thing to do is to get to your doctor.
We know, hemorrhoids can seem embarrassing, but trust us, your doctor has seen it all before!
Will pregnancy hemorrhoids go away?
There’s good news here!
Your hemorrhoids may disappear completely after your pregnancy without any treatment.
Once your hormone and blood levels return to their pre-pregnancy levels and there’s no longer the same pressure on your lower half, those hemorrhoids may just hit the road.
In very rare cases, like if you are experiencing severe pain or heavy bleeding, your doctor may recommend surgery to have your hemorrhoids removed after you’ve had your baby.
But mostly, you’ll be okay using some simple at-home remedies.
How to treat hemorrhoids during pregnancy
Here’s how you can find relief:
- A warm soak. Ah, the soothe. Skip the soap and bubble bath this time, as they can irritate your hemorrhoids.
- Apply a cold compress. If the idea of something cold feels more soothing than something hot, an ice pack or cold compress can be a great way to go.
- Give witch hazel a go. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends applying witch hazel to the area. Witch hazel medicated pads can be convenient and helpful.
- Over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream or suppository. There are a few different options available for over-the-counter relief. Ask your doctor to see what may be most suitable for you.
- Try not to sit too long. The added pressure on the anus area can make matters worse. Stand up and move around every so often. If it helps, set an alarm to get you up and moving.
- Sit on a donut. No frosting on this one, please! A donut or ring-shaped cushion can make sitting a lot more comfortable.
- Try not to strain when you poop. Okay. This one can be challenging when you’re struggling with constipation, but try your best to keep things as relaxed as possible.
- Use wet wipes instead of toilet paper. And opt for patting rather than rubbing the area dry.
- Sleep and relax on your side. This can help take the pressure off your anus area.
Because constipation and hemorrhoids are so closely linked, doing what you can to ward off the dreaded hard stool can also help:
- Up your fruit and veggie intake to ensure you have enough fiber in your diet.
- Drink enough fluids. (The ACOG says eight to twelve cups a day.)
- Get some exercise. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week.
- Speak to your doctor to recommend a stool softener or fiber supplement for you.
All the best, mama.
We hope you get the relief you need.