What exactly is a hemorroid?
Piles, also known as hemorrhoids, are veins that have become swollen and engorged with blood - varicose veins but in your rectum, basically. Hemorrhoids during pregnancy (or any other time) can either be inside the rectum or external. Hemorrhoids can cause pain, itching, and general discomfort, and make sitting super unpleasant. External ones are more likely to bleed and be itchy, while internal hemorrhoids can bleed and are typically more painful.
Why do we get Hemorrhoids?
As your body increases its production of progesterone in the first couple of months of pregnancy which can cause the veins in your body to relax. As your pregnancy progresses, your heavy uterus puts pressure on nearby veins, causing tiny clumps of blood vessels in and around the rectum to bulge. We also tend to become constipated due to hormonal changes and straining while having a poo is a risk factor for the developing hemorrhoids. You might not realise they have them until after you give birth, and you’ve either pushed them out or irritated them enough to notice.
How do I know I have Hemorrhoids during pregnancy?
Pain and itching are the two main things you will notice, which can be there all the time and worsen during bowel movements. Sometimes you can see the hemorrhoids, which will look like soft lumps that appear in bunches around the anus sticking out. You may also feel a lump or a mass, or even a general pressure in the rectal area. Pregnancy hemorrhoids also tend to bleed, so check for spotting when you wipe.
What to do to try to prevent them?
One way to prevent hemorrhoids is to minimize straining. That includes avoiding heavy lifting, like picking up your three-year-old. You should also try to alleviate the strain of constipation. Along with hormonal fluctuations, constipation in pregnancy can also be caused by a lack of fibre so eating lots of fruits and vegetables will help to ensure you are getting enough fiber and magnesium to support a healthy bowel movement as well as drinking plenty of water and taking probiotic. Your midwife or GP may also recommend taking stool softeners during pregnancy and after you have giving birth to help things move along and relieve constipation.
How to treat Hemorrhoids at home?
Once you have hemorrhoids, you’re going to want to have the right tools on-hand to treat them at home. Here are some things that can help to relieve the discomfort.
Cold packs or a cold compress is the best treatment for hemorrhoids because cold therapy helps soothe the pain and irritation. You can use an ice pack or try making a padsicle which is essentially a homemade cold pack - it is a frozen maternity pad filled with healing goodness that you put on your perineum for some soothing relief.
THE MAGIC OF WITCH HAZEL
Witch Hazel is a great herbal skin-soothing remedy with tannins and oils that can help reduce swelling and inflammation. It has a cooling effect and can be used to clean the area or, as a compress.
Here are our favourite ways to use witch hazel for your hemorrhoid care:
A few generous sprays of Witch Hazel Perineal Spray directly on your perineum or pad can provide immediate relief from pain, itching, and swelling.
Cotton pads that are soaked with a witch hazel solution can be folded and tucked into the folds of your bottom so they are directly in contact with the sore spot to relieve pain from hemorrhoids. Try these DIY Soothing Witch Hazel Pads.
GIVE YOURSELF A GOOD SOAK
Sitz baths are an easy home remedy for pregnancy hemorrhoids. It is essentially a warm, shallow bath or sitz pan with an Herbal Bath Soak or Epsom salt soak which can feel like the ultimate relief for painful, itchy hemorrhoids. Not only is it soothing it can also encourage the healing process, in fact, a study conducted in 2018 found that women who took a sitz bath with Epsom salt three times a day had a 100% recovery rate, compared to 85% of women who used topical hemorrhoid creams.