When you're pregnant, there are so many bodily changes happening that it's hard to keep track of what's a side effect of growing another person, and what's some totally unrelated annoying symptom. Take hemorrhoids, for example: They're very common in general, but tend to be even more so during pregnancy, for a few good reasons.
Let's start with what a hemorrhoid is, and we'll make it quick because it's not pleasant. Also known as "piles," hemorrhoids are basically swollen veins in your anus and rectum, that cause a whole bunch of uncomfortable symptoms, like pain, itching around the anus, and blood in your stool, according to the Mayo Clinic. Hemorrhoids can either occur inside your rectum or outside your anus, and the position usually determines the severity of your symptoms and ultimately the treatment. Fun, right?
It's often hard to pinpoint the cause of hemorrhoids, because they can occur anytime there's increased pressure on the veins around your anus. So, simply pushing too hard on a bowel movement or even lifting something heavy could cause one, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The reason pregnant people tend to get hemorrhoids more often has to do with the fact that there is "increased pressure from the growing uterus and baby," explains Fahimeh Sasan, DO, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Constipation is also extremely common when you're pregnant, because higher progesterone levels can slow down the digestive system. And if you're spending a lot of time on the toilet attempting to pass a bowel movement, you might end up with hemorrhoids.
If you're bleeding, or if your hemorrhoids are very painful, you should see your doctor, Dr. Sasan says. In most cases, your doctor will suggest that you treat your constipation with OTC laxatives or stool-softeners to get your bowels moving again, she says.
To manage the pain and itching, your doctor will likely recommend using Preparation H, which is an OTC cream, wipe, or suppository that helps to open up your veins and allow blood to flow freely through the area, Dr. Sasan says. (While these remedies are available at your pharmacy, it's important to consult your doctor before using them, especially if you're pregnant.)
As far as home remedies go, it can be helpful to soak in a warm bath for 10 to 15 minutes a day, and keep your anal area as clean as possible, according to the Mayo Clinic. Instead of using dry toilet paper, which can cause further irritation, opt for moist, unscented towelettes, or consider using a cool hair dryer to dry your anal region. Applying an ice pack can also help soothe the pain and reduce swelling. No one ever said pregnancy was a walk in the park.
Hemorrhoids that don't respond to any of hese treatments may have to be removed surgically, according to the Mayo Clinic. But Dr. Sasan says hemorrhoids typically will become smaller and go away over time.
Luckily, once you give birth, hemorrhoids usually become less of a big deal — just in time for you to begin wiping someone else's butt.