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Pregnancy comes with its own set of body changes and in certain cases, they may not really be pleasant. You feel bloated, experience nausea and perhaps in your third trimester (in some cases earlier too) may also notice blood in your stool. Haemorrhoids or commonly known as piles is a common condition observed in pregnant women. They may cause rectal bleeding and can cause discomfort. Though these are itchy and painful, they can be treated and are easily preventable too. This article will tell you all about haemorrhoids and how to prevent it during pregnancy.
What Are Haemorrhoids or Piles?
Haemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower part of the anus or rectum. Their size may vary from as small as a pea to as large as a grape. There are typically two types of haemorrhoids to watch out for during pregnancy: internal haemorrhoids and external haemorrhoids.
External haemorrhoids that develop during pregnancy appear in the opening of the anus. These can be itchy, painful, and can sometimes bleed. These can be felt as lumps and don’t usually require treatment unless a clot develops around them.
On the other hand, Internal haemorrhoids are found inside the anal canal. These are usually not painful, though may itch and bleed sometimes.
Are Haemorrhoids (Piles) Common in Pregnancy?
Haemorrhoids in pregnancy are common due to various reasons. The growing uterus, constipation and a sudden increase in the progesterone hormone cause haemorrhoids or piles to occur in pregnant women. Sometimes the abnormal growth of varicose veins in the legs and in the vulva also causes haemorrhoids during pregnancy.
If you are wondering how long do pregnancy haemorrhoids last, then there is good news for you. In most of the cases, pregnancy piles disappear soon after childbirth, especially if the cause is constipation as it can easily be avoided by the expecting mother.
What Causes Piles During Pregnancy
The physical changes that accompany pregnancy have a direct bearing on the development of piles. Here is how:
- The Growing Uterus: As the uterus starts growing to accommodate your growing bub, it puts pressure on the pelvic veins and the inferior vena cava (the vein that receives blood from the lower limb). Due to this pressure, the flow of blood from the lower half of the body slows down. This increases the pressure on the veins below the uterus and makes them swell. Technically speaking, piles are dilated varicose veins that are formed in the rectum when the vein’s valves (whose function is to prevent backflow of blood) give away under pressure.
- Constipation and Bowel Movement: Constipation is another cause of pregnancy piles. The strain during hard bowel movements due to constipation aggravates haemorrhoids as it puts excessive pressure on the rectum.
- Increased Progesterone Secretion: The excess secretion of progesterone hormone relaxes the walls of the veins causing them to swell. The same hormone is responsible for causing constipation in pregnant women.
- Prior History of the Condition: Women may get piles for the first time during pregnancy but if they have a history of haemorrhoids or piles in the past, then the chances of developing haemorrhoids in pregnancy are very high. During pregnancy, haemorrhoids are common in either third trimester or the second stage of labour. It has been found that discomfort or bleeding from haemorrhoids is also common during the postpartum period.
Symptoms of Haemorrhoids in Pregnant Women
Some of the common symptoms of haemorrhoids in pregnant women are:
- Itching at the anus
- Burning of the anus
- Painful swellings at the anus
- Painful bowel movements
- Bleeding and pain with bowel movements
Bleeding with bowel movement has been observed as one of the initial symptoms of piles in pregnant women. However, it is important to note that piles are not always the cause of bleeding of the anus. Hence, a proper diagnosis of the problem is required before starting the treatment for haemorrhoids.
How to Get Rid of Haemorrhoids (Piles) During Pregnancy
Unlike general perception, it is important to know that haemorrhoids that occur during pregnancy can be cured. There are home remedies as well as clinical treatments for haemorrhoids available for pregnant women.
Treatment of piles during pregnancy also includes the use of suppositories and ointments that contain local anaesthetics, mild astringents, or steroids for temporary relief from pain and irritation. However, the safety of using these products during pregnancy has not been confirmed or documented anywhere. It is therefore extremely important to consult your doctor before using any of these products or medicines.
If the pain persists then some of the following non-surgical treatment for piles during pregnancy may help:
- Bipolar coagulation in which special probe is used to stop blood flow to internal haemorrhoids.
- Sometimes a knot is tied to stop blood flow to the haemorrhoids. This procedure is called Haemorrhoidal Arterial Ligation.
- Banding is another treatment in which a band is placed over the haemorrhoid to stop blood flow. This makes it wither away fast.
- In a procedure called Freezing, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the tissue so that new tissue is formed.
Surgery may only be required for piles if bleeding is not controlled and that course of action is advised by your doctor.
Interestingly, home remedies for piles during pregnancy are safer and highly recommended. In most cases, piles can be treated by increasing the fibre content of the diet, using stool softeners, by increasing everyday water intake and anti-haemorrhoidal analgesics. Other effective remedies include:
- Application of ice pack on the affected area. This helps to reduce the swelling and irritation.
- Soaking yourself in a bathtub filled with warm water. This helps relieve pain and irritation. Take a warm bath whenever possible. Soak yourself in the water for 10 to 15 minutes to get rid of the discomfort. It increases blood circulation and provides relief from the condition.
- Alternative cold and warm compress are also very effective in treating piles in pregnant women.
- Maintaining hygiene by cleaning the affected area using soft unscented toilet tissues after every bowel movement.
- Apply Witch Hazel ointment/pads to reduce swelling or itching. These herbs have soothing properties that can help with the condition. But use these only after taking approval from your doctor.
How to Prevent Haemorrhoids During Pregnancy
Haemorrhoids, especially during pregnancy, can really be troublesome and annoying. Luckily, they can be avoided by making simple lifestyle changes and taking a few precautionary measures.
- Add fibre in your diet: Including fibre rich foods in your diet is very helpful as it helps in easier bowel movements resulting in curing constipation.
- Maintain appropriate water intake: Drinking plenty of water is another way to control constipation. When you don’t consume enough water, your body tends to absorb some from the colon, leaving the area dry and also causes difficult bowel movements.
- Respond when the pressure beckons: Rush to the toilet as soon as you feel a bowel movement. Holding it back puts pressure on the rectal area.
- Pay attention to the posture: Don’t sit or stand for too long during pregnancy. Keep moving as it will help in the circulation of blood and thus reduce the chances of getting haemorrhoids.
- Give Kegel exercises a try: Repeat Kegel exercise to increase the circulation of blood in the rectal area that eventually reduces the chance of getting haemorrhoids.
When to See Your Health Care Provider
If preventive measures and home treatments fail to help and if severe pain or rectal bleeding is experienced, then it is advisable to see a doctor. In case the haemorrhoid are big and bleeding, a specialist will help to shrink them.
Most of the cases of haemorrhoids in pregnant women can be treated by medicine alone. Although a common and mostly minor irritant, haemorrhoids may pose a larger issue if they are not treated on time. While home remedies often provide relief, is important to seek help from your doctor if the problem persists.