Remember that episode of The Office where Steve Carrell's character, thinking he's alone, screams into the forest, "I have hemorrhoids?" He screams because hemorrhoids are a real pain, and also, not an acceptable topic of discussion in polite society. Luckily, pregnant women don't have to be polite, and if you have them, feel free to complain to whoever you want. You're making a miracle, and polite society can just deal. Here's how to treat pregnancy hemorrhoids, which are certifiably the worst.
According to Baby Center, an ice pack applied to the affected area can ease discomfort, as can soaking in a warm tub or making your own sitz bath. American Pregnancy Association also recommended baking soda to reduce itching, Tucks Medicated Pads for pain, and inflammation-reducing witch hazel, which is a surprisingly effective remedy for many conditions affecting the nether-regions. It's also probably a good idea to avoid sitting through a three-hour installment of the latest superhero movie. A little prenatal yoga won't hurt, either — think puppy pose, or anything that elevates your hips.
"Upwards of 50 percent of pregnant women get hemorrhoids," Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, board-certified OB-GYN from Twin Doctors TV, tells Romper. He goes on to explain that hemorrhoids are essentially extremely poorly situated varicose veins and they can be caused by a few things. First off, your blood volume doubles when you're expecting, which means your veins are channelling a lot more fluid than they're used to. "Because veins have thinner walls surrounding them than arteries do, when they have to accommodate more blood, they stretch and balloon out, becoming 'varicose veins,'" explains Abdur-Rahman.
Additionally, all that blood is rushing to your pelvis, sending oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby. Veins running through and around your pelvis handle more blood even than the rest of your pregnant body. "This makes them even more prone to become engorged, varicose veins," according to Abdur-Rahman. "Lastly, as the uterus grows, it presses on the pelvic veins that drain blood back up to the heart from the vulva, vagina, anus and rectum." So blood that should be circulating throughout your body just kind of hangs out, pooling in your lower half.
While hemorrhoids get a lot of pregnancy press, the swelling isn't limited to that one specific area. According to Abdur-Rahman, many pregnant women "[d]on't just get varicose veins of the anus and rectum. They also get varicose veins of the vulva and vagina. And I've found that this freaks way more pregnant women out more than the varicose veins of the rectum and anus do."
Mayo Clinic recommended soaking cotton pads in witch hazel and applying them to the anal area if you suffer from hemorrhoids. Witch hazel helps compress blood vessels and reduce swelling. You can also soak in a warm tub — Mayo Clinic noted that the water should be plain (no bubbles), and that you should avoid sitting for too long.
If hemorrhoids are really bothering you, snag your pregnancy pillow and lie down on your side — lying down takes the pressure off stressed-out veins (so long as you're not lying on your back). Another contributor to hemorrhoids, according to Mayo Clinic, is constipation, so talk to your doctor if that's a problem. Remember also to always tell your doctor if you use over-the-counter remedies like a hemorrhoid cream or medicated pad.
Finally, keep your head up. Mayo Clinic reported that many women with hemorrhoids during pregnancy feel a whole lot better after they deliver. There's no doubt that hemorrhoids are painful, annoying, and just plain unfair to pregnant people. On the bright side, you can calm inflammation and pain while pregnant, and look forward to a hemorrhoid-free future.
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