BOD-ities: Are pregnancy hemorrhoids normal?

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BOD-ities: Is it true that I could get hemorrhoids during pregnancy? If it is, is there anything I can do to prevent them?

It might surprise you, but it's true—one of the "weird" pregnancy symptoms you might experience is hemorrhoids.

While hemorrhoids can happen to anyone, they are more common among pregnant women. The reason for this is two-fold: the pressure of your uterus can cause the blood vessels in your large intestine (the colon and rectum) to swell, and more frequent constipation can cause strained bowel movements.

Hemorrhoids aren't dangerous but, as you may have heard, they can be painful. They can cause itching, irritation, swelling or general discomfort near your rectum. You may also notice blood in your stool or have strained or uncomfortable bowel movements. Fortunately, these symptoms aren't usually present throughout your pregnancy; hemorrhoids typically don't occur until the third trimester.

You asked if there's anything you can do to prevent hemorrhoids. While there's not much you can do to manage the size or pressure of your uterus as it grows during pregnancy, you can help ease constipation by keeping your stools soft. Try lifestyle modifications like:

  • Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is key
  • Slowly introducing fiber-rich foods into your diet, like whole grains and produce
  • Exercising regularly
  • Going to the bathroom as soon as you need to
  • Taking standing or walking breaks in between long periods of sitting

If these solutions still don't help you find relief from constipation, talk to your OB/GYN or a colon and rectal specialist about whether it's safe for you to take a fiber supplement or stool softener.

There are other ways you can find relief, too.

In the later weeks and months of pregnancy, when it's uncomfortable to stand for extended periods of time, opt to lie on your side instead of sit. If you must, sit on a ring cushion to alleviate pressure. You can also soak in a warm bath or apply a hemorrhoid cream to the affected area to manage discomfort. It is rare, but hemorrhoidal surgery can be performed during pregnancy for extreme cases. However, it is best deferred to after delivery

After your delivery, your hemorrhoid pain should subside within a few weeks. It may take up to six months for hemorrhoid symptoms to completely resolve. But if it doesn't, talk to your doctor. You may be a candidate for surgical hemorrhoid treatment if symptoms continue even after your pregnancy.

Next steps:

Make an appointment with an OB/GYN provider
Download your maternity checklist
6 changes during pregnancy that may surprise you

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