What can I do about hemorrhoids during pregnancy?
Hemorrhoids, which are the abnormal dilation of veins in the anal canal, frequently occur or flare up during pregnancy. Pressure on the backside from the uterus is certainly implicated in this painful condition, and prolonged sitting can make this worse. Hemorrhoids can sometimes bleed, particularly with bowel movements, and this can be scary. If it happens, calm down; using a tissue, make sure that the bleeding is coming from the rectum and not from the vagina, and that it is bright red (signifying that it is not coming from higher up in the anal canal, in which case it would be brown and gummy). Clean the area carefully and press a clean cotton pad over it before dressing. If the bleeding stops, you can wait and mention it the next time you see your midwife or doctor. If it continues, you need to have it evaluated to rule out something serious. Constipation, also common during pregnancy, makes hemorrhoids worse, and can make them bleed as the hard stool is passed, so try to avoid it. Eat foods high in fiber (all fruits except bananas, most vegetables, whole grains) and avoid white rice, bananas, cheese – and anything that you have noticed causes constipation when you eat it. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Prunes are an especially good answer to constipation – they may out-perform laxatives and can be eaten as a snack. Exercise is also important.
Here is an easy, inexpensive, and effective remedy for hemorrhoids from Sr. Angela Murdaugh, whose years of midwifery experience and having to cut corners have produced some invaluable tips: “Take a regular white potato and cut it into bullet shaped pieces about as big as the end of one’s middle finger. Keep the pieces submerged in water in the refrigerator. Whenever hemorrhoids swell and/or itch, just insert one rectally. Can be used as often as necessary and will bring fabulous relief at a very low cost.”
Another effective and inexpensive treatment, available over the counter at pharmacies and groceries, is witch hazel. Saturate a cotton pad with this and tuck it against the painful hemorrhoids after carefully cleansing the area with warm water. Witch hazel is astringent and shrinks inflamed tissue, including those swollen, tender veins in that most personal of places.