Help! I’m 6 months’ pregnant and I have hemorrhoids that are driving me crazy! And, on top of it, I’m always constipated. What do I do?!
Hemorrhoids — which are actually varicose veins in the anus or rectum — are a common pregnancy complaint. They may bleed, itch, or sting, especially during or after a bowel movement. As the blood volume increases and the uterus presses against the pelvis, the veins in your anus or rectum may enlarge into grape-like clusters. They usually get better after delivery.
Another common complaint during pregnancy is constipation. It may be hard to have a bowel movement because hormones slow the rate of food passing through the gastrointestinal tract and the uterus pushes against the large intestine. Constipation contributes to hemorrhoids because straining to have a bowel movement may enlarge the veins of the rectum.
The best way to combat both hemorrhoids and constipation is to prevent them. Eat a diet rich in fiber — whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of water every day. Exercise regularly. Ask your doctor if you should use stool softeners (unless the doctor tells you to, you shouldn’t take laxatives).
And try not to stand or sit for long periods of time — both put pressure on the veins in your lower body. If you have to sit for a long time, make sure to get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour.
To help relieve hemorrhoid pain, soak in a tub or use over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams and/or witch hazel pads. Ice packs on the painful area may also provide a little much-needed relief. Unscented, pre-moistened wipes are often less irritating than toilet paper. Check with your doctor before using any products for hemorrhoid relief, and about any questions or concerns you have.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: July 2009
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