Yes, you read that correctly. Let's talk about hemorrhoids.
As my pregnancy has progressed, so have the strange, uncomfortable and least talked about parts of what's happening to my body. And I don't mean that my boobs are so heavy they are crushing my lungs — and my baby. (No, really. I can breathe a lot better if I just hold them up.) Or that when I walk down the street I catch people's eyes transfixed on my stomach. Or how my child thinks it's a game to kick my bladder every time I finally find time to go for a walk. Or how my body has graciously traded throwing up for random bouts of passing out in public.
I'm talking about hemorrhoids.
Late in my second trimester I found one of these dreaded beasts. My reaction: Whyyyyyyy? Why this too? And why have I never heard of this happening. Like, not EVER. Like the stages of grief, I then experienced pure, raging anger. With everything else happening to a pregnant woman, does she really need to add hemorrhoids to the list? And why had no one informed me about this? A few texts to some friends confirmed they too had gotten hemorrhoids during pregnancy, or after delivery. It seemed a common occurrence, and yet this was not a topic I once heard discussed at the many baby showers I've attended over my adult life.
After my rage subsided, I turned to finding solutions. I researched what exactly hemorrhoids were, how people got them, how common they were, and what I could do about them now. Here's what I found.
What They Are
Hem*or*rhoid (noun) A swollen vein or group of veins in the region of the anus. (Google)
Hemorrhoids are varicose veins in the rectum that are also known as piles. They can itch and be painful. They are "harmless and common, afflicting more than half of all pregnant women, especially in the mid-second to third trimesters." (Whattoexpect.com)
Hemorrhoids may cause blood or pain while pooping. (Thebump.com)
Hemorrhoids can be internal, external, or both. (Medicalnewstoday.com)
About 3/4 of Americans will have hemorrhoids a some time in their life." (Livestrong.com)
How They Happen
A combination of constipation, excessive (forceful) gas, pressure from an enlarging uterus around week 25, and increased blood flow to the pelvic area all help "the rectal wall to swell, bulge and itch." They can also "develop postpartum due to pushing during labor." (Whattoexpect.com)
My Hemorrhoid Pregnancy Survival Kit
- Wipe gently after bowel movements
- You can use Witch Hazel on a tissue to do this as well, or splash with water
- Have a sitz bath for 10-15 minutes/ day
- A sitz bath is an unattractive plastic bowl you can find on Amazon, at Walgreens, and other various stores. I purchased mine from Walgreens. You fill the bowl with warm water, flip up the toilet seat, and place the plastic bowl onto the toilet bowl rim. You then sit it in.
- My favorite so far is warm water, epsom salt, lavender oil, and Witch Hazel. If you use oils, make sure they are a therapeutic or topical grade, and not just aromatherapy grade. Also make sure the oil is 1) safe to use during pregnancy and 2) is useful for treating piles.
- Sleep on your left side to reduce pressure on veins
- Walk to help prevent constipation
- If it's safe for you, I do inversions to help my digestion
- Drink lots of water
- Increase fiber (I add ground flax to smoothies, cups of water, and in my oatmeal or yogurt)
- Avoid foods that make you extra gassy/constipated
- For me this was cutting back on dairy, gluten, sugar, broccoli, cauliflower, and making sure I increased veggies and watched my meat intake a bit.
- Apply rhoid balm from Motherlove on area
- This stuff is AMAZING. You can get it here.
- Don't be embarrassed or ashamed of hemorrhoids. It's all a part of the process of growing a human.
Postpartum Hemorrhoid and Perineal Healing Kit
I haven't gotten this far yet in my pregnancy, but I began researching good products and strategies to have on hand after giving birth.
- Aviva Romm has a wonderful post called "Ahhh! Soothing Herbal Baths for New Mothers"
- Earth Mama and Angel Baby Organics Postpartum Bath Herbs
- Earth Mama and Angel Baby Mama Bottom Balm — good for easing discomfort of episiotomy, perineal tears, hemorrhoids and more
If you have hemorrhoids, I hope this post helps you to heal, and also to feel less embarrassed. And maybe at the next baby shower, we can talk about piles with ease to inform and support one another.