Hemorrhoids are swollen veins at the end of the large intestine/anus. They often stick out from the anus (external hemorrhoids). They can also be located on the inside of the lower intestine (internal hemorrhoids). Bleeding, itching and pain are common hemorrhoid symptoms.
Causes of hemorrhoids in pregnancy
Hemorrhoids are common during and after pregnancy, because the enlarged uterus places pressure on the large vein (inferior vena cava) that drains the veins of the large intestine.
Constipation, a common problem during pregnancy, causes less frequent and more strained bowel movements. The bowels commonly move more slowly during pregnancy. And iron in prenatal vitamins also can cause constipation.
Hemorrhoids can get worse with pushing or straining, especially with constipation. Being overweight and having hemorrhoids before pregnancy can also make them worse. Pushing during delivery tends to worsen hemorrhoids, too.
Preventing and treating hemorrhoids
To prevent or ease constipation and hemorrhoids:
- Eat a high-fiber diet (lots of whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains)
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
- Don’t strain (push hard) during a bowel movement
- Increase the amount of exercise you get every day
To treat the itching or pain of hemorrhoids:
- Keep the anus clean by wiping carefully or using a squirt bottle after each bowel movement. Gently wipe from the front to the back. Baby wipes or hemorrhoid pads are usually gentler than toilet paper. If you use toilet paper, use only soft, dye-free, unscented toilet paper.
- Take warm soaks in a tub or a sitz bath. Warm water can help shrink or soothe hemorrhoids. Add baking soda to the water to relieve itching.
- Apply ice pack compresses.
- Apply an over-the-counter or prescription medicine to hemorrhoids to relieve the itching.
- A stool softener to prevent straining.
Be sure to check with your provider if your symptoms worsen or you have excessive bleeding from hemorrhoids. And remember that these problems are usually short-term and get better after delivery with time and treatment.
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