One of the most common side effects of pregnancy and delivering a baby can be hemorrhoids. Also known as piles, these bulges can be incredibly painful and uncomfortable for new mothers and interfere with the bliss they should be feeling with their new little baby. Fortunately, knowing the symptoms and the risk factors can help you to avoid this issue. Additionally, if you are suffering from post-partum hemorrhoids, below are some ways to relieve your symptoms and aid in healing.
What are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are types of varicose veins (where blood has caused the vein to swell unusually) that occur around your rectum. What causes this to occur is when the walls of a vein weaken, which allows the blood to swell in the vein and slowly leak into the skin. Sometimes a hemorrhoid can occur inside the rectum and bulge outside of the anus, causing a soft ball of tissue that you can feel. They can vary in size from as large as a grape to as small as a pea or a raisin. They can also be simply an irritating itch, or cause severe pain and bleeding, especially when trying to have a bowel movement. Being pregnant automatically puts you at a higher risk for hemorrhoids as well. This happens due to the increased pressure on the pelvic veins and the vena cava vein, which supplies blood to the lower half of your body. When this occurs, it can slow the blood flow in that portion of your body and causes the veins to become enlarged, which causes varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
During pregnancy, your body also produces a lot of the hormone Progesterone. Progesterone has many benefits for your actual pregnancy but can increase the risk of hemorrhoids due to the hormone causing vein walls to relax. This relaxing makes it very easy for the walls of the veins to then swell. Progesterone also increases the likelihood of you being constipated. Constipation can then, in turn, cause straining and pushing that can pop out the walls of your veins.
As previously stated, the symptoms of a postpartum hemorrhoid are as follows:
-Itching, burning, and discomfort around the anus.
-Swelling between the size of a pea and the size of a grape.
-Light bleeding during bowel movements, resulting in bright red blood flow.
-Pain with bowel movements as pushing or the stool rubbing against the injury irritates the swelling.
-General discomfort while sitting or walking.
-Leakage of stool from your anus into your underwear. This is caused when the swelling is close to the opening of your anus and your anus cannot close properly due to the swelling.
While most postpartum hemorrhoids are caused by pressure and pushing, several risk factors are associated with a higher risk of postpartum hemorrhoids. If you are obese, engage in anal intercourse, frequently lift heavy things while pregnant or after, or find yourself sitting on the toilet for a long amount of time, you might be at a higher risk for postpartum hemorrhoids. The best thing you can do is ensure that you are not lifting anything heavier than what your doctor has recommended, be aware of standing in one place for too long, and avoid anal intercourse while pregnant. Avoiding these activities can help you reduce the chance of suffering from postpartum hemorrhoids.
If you find yourself suffering from postpartum hemorrhoids you might be desperate for a solution or way to provide yourself some measure of relief from the symptoms. There are about a thousand different solutions that many people will suggest to you, but below are some of the methods that are most commonly used for relief.
Ice: Applying an ice pack, covered in a towel or other soft material, can bring a lot of relief as the ice will help decrease the swelling and numb the area to discomfort.
Wiping: How you wipe after a bowel movement, as well as what you wipe with, can help bring some relief to your discomfort. You should make sure that you are using only soft and unscented toilet paper to avoid irritating the area further. If toilet paper is still too rough, you can choose to spray your privates with a peri-bottle and wipe with baby wipes soaked in Witch Hazel. The wipes are cooler, as well as much gentler than normal toilet paper.
Remove the Pressure: Removing the pressure off the swollen veins can also help ease discomfort. You should avoid sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time. Instead, you should lie down as much as possible.
Sitz Bath: A sitz bath is a shallow tub of warm water you can place in your toilet seat that allows you to submerge your rectum while sitting down. The warmth helps to soothe the discomfort caused by hemorrhoids and can help to speed the healing process for many women.
Alternating: Alternating warm and cold temperatures on the hemorrhoids can also help ease the discomfort. Applying ice for a while, followed by a warm compress, can be a nice and somewhat relaxing way to ease the pain and discomfort.
Medicines: Certain medicines, such as topical analgesics or Tylenol and Ibuprofen can be used to relieve the pain and discomfort as well. However, these should only be used on your doctor’s recommendation. Additionally, you should never use aspirin based products as they can leak into your milk supply and cause your child to become very ill.
Avoid Constipation: The number one suggestion for finding relief from the hemorrhoid pain is to limit the amount of constipation you are feeling. You should focus on eating a high-fiber diet, drinking plenty of water, and continuing to exercise during pregnancy and after. You could also ask your physician for a stool softener, and avoid waiting to go to the bathroom.
When to Call the Doctor
Due to how common postpartum hemorrhoids can be, many women may not feel comfortable “bothering” their doctors with their pain and discomfort. However, if you are experiencing unusual bleeding or prolonged discomfort even after attempting relief efforts, you should see your physician. In most cases hemorrhoids will improve and heal on their own, but in some cases you might need more medical intervention, so if you are concerned that your hemorrhoids are not improving be sure to contact your physician.