Hemorrhoids are unusually swollen blood vessels (also called varicose veins) present in the rectal area.  They are usually painful, and typically are as small as a raisin or as large as a grape.  They can cause discomfort, pain, itchiness and rectal bleeding.

During pregnancy, your growing uterus puts pressure on the veins in your pelvic area.  This slows the return of blood from the lower half of the body, making the veins in the lower half of your body (such as those in the rectal area) swollen.  An increase in progesterone during pregnancy also causes the walls of your veins to relax, making them swell more easily.  Increased constipation during pregnancy may also contribute to hemorrhoids.  Increased weight can also lead to hemorrhoids.  Many women develop hemorrhoids for the first time during pregnancy.  Hemorrhoids are most likely to appear late in pregnancy, during the third trimester.  Often, hemorrhoids will go away on their own after birth.

There are several effective techniques for relieving and treating hemorrhoids:

–  Apply witch hazel or lemon juice via medicated pads

–  Take a warm sitz bath or a bath with baking soda in the water

–  Keep your anal area clean

–  If a hemorrhoid begins to stick out, gently push it back into the rectal area

–  Check with your physician about safe topical anesthetics or suppositories used to treat hemorrhoids

–  Apply an ice pack or cold compress to the rectal area

–  Use soft, unscented white toilet tissue to reduce irritation

Hemorrhoids during pregnancy are not unavoidable.  There are several things you can do do avoid getting them, including:

–  Avoid constipation

–  Eat a high fiber diet

–  Drink plenty of fluids, including 1-2 glasses of juice daily

–  Don’t wait when you have the urge for a bowel movement

–  Do Kegel exercises to increase the circulation in the rectal area

–  Avoid sitting or standing for long stretches of time

–  Exercise regularly

If you notice bleeding or if your own preventive and relief efforts aren’t working, speak with your physician.

Hemorrhoids and Pregnancy