We see a lot of our pregnant clients coming to us talking about hemorrhoids. Here are answers to some common questions we get asked.
Hemorrhoids are common during pregnancy, but what are they?
Hemorrhoids are a swollen vein in and around the anal opening. They are common during pregnancy because of the increased pressure of a growing baby in and on the pelvis. The pelvic floor can cause compression, irritation, and swelling of these veins. Also, during pregnancy, there are increased levels of the hormone, Progesterone. This hormone helps to create laxity throughout our joints and ligaments to accommodate for a growing baby within the pelvis. This hormone allows for relaxation in the blood vessel walls to stretch, allowing for swelling or pooling of blood to occur in these vessels.
What do hemorrhoids feel like?
Symptoms of hemorrhoids can be burning, itching, or stinging in the rectal area. Sometimes, you might have bleeding, especially with a bowel movement. You may notice the bleeding as you wipe. If there are external hemorrhoids, you might have small bumps around the anus. This occurs when the blood vessels start to bulge out from the rectum.
What can make hemorrhoids worse?
There are three main things we want to avoid when experiencing hemorrhoids: prolonged sitting, prolonged standing, and constipation. With prolonged sitting and standing, there is extra compression through the pelvic area, try alternating positions throughout the day. With constipation, pushing or straining to evacuate your bowels can make hemorrhoids worse, especially if you are holding your breath and pushing down. The veins in and around the anus are most susceptible to stretch during pregnancy and with 40% of women experiencing constipation during their pregnancy we start to see hemorrhoids appear because of this.
How can I prevent hemorrhoids?
- DIETARY CHANGES. Make sure you are drinking an adequate amount of water. Many women are not properly hydrated during pregnancy, this can lead to constipation, which again. To ensure you are drinking enough water, monitor the color of your pee. A sign of good hydration is urine that is a pale yellow, the darker the urine the more dehydrated you are. Also make sure you are getting your daily serving of fiber, the easiest way to do this is increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. Water plus Fiber together creates healthy bowels.
- PROPER TOILET POSITIONING. Make sure your knees are higher than your hips. You can achieve this by using a tool such as the squatty potty or a step stool. Place this under your feet to elevate your knees.
- CHANGE POSITIONS OFTEN. Avoiding staying in one position for a prolonged period of time in order to decrease the amount of pressure and stress through our pelvic area. Switch between sitting and standing to minimize the amount of pressure and stress through the pelvic area.
- KEGELS: A kegel is a contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles. Contract the pelvic floor muscles like you are trying to stop the flow of urine and relax to let it go.This helps to improve circulation and minimize swelling in the pelvic area.
If hemorrhoids are present, here are things you can try to reduce the discomfort:
- Try a cold compress, or make a DIY cold pack. For a DIY cold pack, apply Witch Hazel onto a sanitary pad and put it in the freezer. You can place that pad directly on your underwear for extra cooling support through the area.
- Try a sitz bath, this will help with relaxation and calming the irritation surrounding the pelvic floor.
- Switch what you are doing to clean yourself after using the restroom use a flushable wipe or a squirt bottle with water to squirt the area clean and pad it dry to minimize wiping around the anus.
Try these tips out and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to call us and speak to a pelvic floor physical therapist!