Even if you’ve never had them in your life before, there is a very good chance you will get hemorrhoids during your pregnancy. If you have gotten them before, you can almost guarantee you’ll get more once you’re pregnant. Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the rectum. They are common during pregnancy for two reasons.

First, hemorrhoids are likely during your pregnancy because your heavy uterus will be pushing down on your vena cava, which is the same reason you might get varicose veins. There is no way to prevent this pressure unfortunately, and the restricted blood flow will make for a swelling of the veins in your rectum.

The second reason hemorrhoids are so common during pregnancy is because constipation is so common. Straining during bowel movements can cause hemorrhoids, which is why most adults get them normally.

Over the counter treatments will ease the pain of hemorrhoids during pregnancy, and most are safe. However, it’s a better idea to prevent them before they even show up. Make sure you avoid constipation as much as possible during pregnancy by eating a diet that is balanced and high in fiber. Also, try doing Kegel exercises as the pressure from your uterus increase, as these will enhance blood flow. Similarly, get up and stretch as much as possible when you’re at your desk or sitting in a chair. Prevent blood flow restriction as much as possible.

If you have hemorrhoids during pregnancy and are hesitant to use a medical treatment, alternate between cold and warm treatments to calm down the swelling. Sit in a warm bath for a while, but later apply a cold icepack to your bottom. Keep the area as clean as possible, and use moist toilet paper if necessary to prevent irritation.

If you start bleeding or can’t seem to relieve the pain, call your physician for an exam. In most cases, hemorrhoids go away soon after delivery because blood flow resumes its normal path without the restriction of the heavy baby inside of you. If they don’t seem to go away, bring them up to your doctor because they could be something else entirely.

Just like hair growth and constipation, hemorrhoids are another one of those embarrassing pregnancy side effects that few women talk about. Don’t bring it up over a dinner, but also don’t feel like you need to hide your symptoms from your doctor. 

Source: AF Avsar et al: Haemorrhoids During Pregnancy. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Volume 30 Issue 3 pp. 231-237 April 2010

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