To make matters worse, some women will also develop painful hemorrhoids. This condition causes swollen veins in the lowest part of the rectum and anus. Primarily, women develop these during their third trimester.
In many cases, these veins can become even more irritated when defecating. In this article, we will take a closer look at the relationship between hemorrhoids, aka piles, and pregnancy. We will also review the symptoms and treatments available to those struggling with the condition.
WHY DOES BEING PREGNANT CAUSE HEMORRHOIDS?
When a woman becomes pregnant, the size of her uterus increases and places more pressure on the veins in the rectum and anus. This size increase also triggers an uptick in progesterone, a hormone produced in the ovaries following ovulation. Progesterone causes vein walls to become relaxed, making them even more susceptible to inflammation and swelling. The increase in blood flow that occurs when a woman is pregnant causes these same veins to become larger, further increasing her chances of developing hemorrhoids. Pregnancy hormones can also cause food to move through the digestive tract at a slower rate, further increasing the likelihood of constipation, which can lead to piles. The following other factors might trigger a flare-up:
- Standing or sitting for too long
- Straining while passing stool
- Gaining pregnancy weight
- Consuming a low-fiber diet
- Chronic diarrhea
- Engaging in heavy lifting
It is worth noting that piles are not uncommon during most pregnancies; however, many will agree that the condition can be quite distressing. As far as symptoms are concerned, they can vary depending on the type of piles that a woman has developed in that they can be classified as external, forming underneath the skin near the anus, or internal, which means that they form inside of the rectum. That said, some of the most common symptoms include
- Persistent pain and discomfort
- Swelling around the anus
- Itching an irritation
- Bloody stool
- Pain while defecating
- Bleeding while defecating
- Prolapsed or protruding piles
- Itching and irritation
Those with external piles should avoid straining when defecating as doing so can lead to thrombosed piles, which are piles that contain blood clots. Symptoms associated with this condition often include
- A hard, painful mass around the anus
- Pain while sitting or walking
- Bleeding while defecating
HOW COMMON ARE PILES DURING PREGNANCY?
Now that we have a better understanding of why women develop piles once they become pregnant, let’s take a closer look at how many women are affected by this sometimes painful condition. According to a study published by BMJ Clinical Evidence, an international peer-reviewed journal that publishes systematic reviews of important clinical conditions, more than 38 percent of women will struggle with constipation once they become pregnant. The study goes on to state that these struggles will likely be the result of the uterus pressing against the bowel as it grows in size or due to excessive iron, a mineral found in most prenatal vitamins, in their blood.
COMPLICATIONS CAUSED BY PILES
Being pregnant can be taxing on a woman’s body; however, piles can make matters that much worse. In addition to thrombosed piles, which is often caused by straining while constipated, some women may also encounter the following complications:
Strangulated piles -This condition is typically associated with internal piles and occurs when they no longer receive blood, which can cause intense inflammation, irritation, and pain.
Anemia – Although rare, piles can trigger anemia, a condition characterized by a reduction in red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood, in some women.
HOW TO AVOID HEMORRHOIDS WHILE PREGNANT
Consuming fiber-rich foods – One of the best ways to lower your chances of developing piles while pregnant is by eating foods that contain fiber as the nutrient goes a long way toward normalizing bowel movements. It also aids in softening and increasing stool size as well. For those who are a fan of fruits, bananas, oranges, apples, mangoes, strawberries, raspberries are all excellent sources of fiber. As far as vegetables are concerned, carrots, beets, broccoli, spinach, and most dark-colored vegetables contain a fair amount of fiber. The same applies to whole grains as well. All in all, there are several options when it comes to increasing your fiber intake.
Stool softeners – Although a fiber-rich diet can help soften stool, some women may still find defecating difficult while pregnant, especially during their third trimester. In these cases, prescription-based stool softeners can be beneficial.
Exercise – Kegel exercises not only strengthen your pelvic floor muscles but also eases pile symptoms by helping to improve blood flow to the rectal area. However, you must isolate and contract the right muscles to get the most out of these exercises. To that point, it may be a good idea to work with an obstetrician, gynecologist, or personal trainer that can guide you on using proper form to ensure that you are targeting the right muscle groups.
Practicing good hygiene – Studies show that not properly wiping or cleansing after defecating can cause piles, especially in women who are pregnant. After defecating, it is a good idea to use baby wipes as opposed to toilet paper as they do not irritate the delicate around the anus. They are also more effective when it comes to removing fecal matter. Beyond that, you should make it a point to keep this part of your body as dry as possible.
TREATING PILES WHILE PREGNANT
When it comes to treating piles during your pregnancy, several at-home remedies have been shown to be effective, some of which include
Sitz baths – For those who are unfamiliar with a sitz bath, it is a therapeutic bath commonly used to heal and cleanse the space around the genitals and the anus. For best results, you will want to sit in the warm bath for 10 to 15 minutes 3 times per day or until your symptoms have subsided.
Over-the-counter treatments – For piles that are relatively small and not overly painful, over-the-counter ointments, suppositories, creams, and pads can provide a great deal of relief. After all, many of these products contain ingredients that can help relieve inflammation, itching, and pain, such as lidocaine and hydrocortisone, for example.
WILL PILES GO AWAY AFTER GIVING BIRTH?
Piles caused by pregnancy will typically go away on their own after a woman has given birth as this is when intra-abdominal pressure decreases and hormone levels return to normal. Also worth noting, women that do not develop piles while pregnant often develop them after giving birth, typically due to straining during the second stage of labor. In these cases, it can take as long as 6 months before they finally go away.
HOW ARE HEMMORHOIDS CLASSIFIED?
When it comes to piles, everyone experiences them differently. Therefore, they have been assigned grades based on severity. These grades include the following:
- Grade 1 – This grade is used to describe internal piles that affect the inner lining of the anus.
- Grade 2 – This grade describes internal piles that are slightly larger than grade 1 but have not yet extended beyond the inner lining of the anus.
- And, Grade 3 – This grade is associated with external piles, also known as prolapsed piles, which can be felt hanging from the rectum. However, they can be re-inserted.
Grade 4 – This grade is associated with external piles that require medical treatment as they are much larger than those associated with grade 3 and cannot be re-inserted.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HEMORRHOIDS & PREGNANCY
Although giving birth is one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life, the journey through pregnancy be challenging. And when you struggle with hemorrhoids during pregnancy, it only makes things that much harder. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments that can provide relief. That allows you to focus on more important things…like motherhood, for example.