Find out how to treat this common ailment, with our expert advice.
Expecting a baby but suffering with haemorrhoids? You are not alone. Haemorrhoids are fairly common during pregnancy and after childbirth. While they can be uncomfortable for you, the good news is they do not affect your unborn baby in any way.
Dr Andrew Thornber, Chief Medical Officer at Now Patient offers his expert advice on exactly what haemorrhoids are and how you can ease the discomfort:
What are haemorrhoids?
‘Haemorrhoids (or piles) are swollen veins in the lowest part of your rectum and anus,’ explains Dr Thornber. ‘Sometimes the walls of these blood vessels stretch so thinly that the veins bulge and get irritated, especially when you go to the toilet.’
Haemorrhoids can affect anyone, but they are thought to be particularly common during pregnancy and after childbirth due to the following:
⭐ The increased volume of blood in your body during pregnancy.
⭐ An progesterone hormone increase, which relaxes the walls of your blood vessels.
⭐ The extra load placed on the veins below your growing baby during pregnancy.
⭐ Pressure during labour (especially if there is a lot of pushing towards the end).
Why do haemorrhoids develop during pregnancy and after childbirth?
It’s thought that up to a third of women experience haemorrhoids either during pregnancy or postpartum, so while they’re not pleasant, you’re certainly not alone.
‘During pregnancy, women’s hormones mean blood vessels get very relaxed, which can often lead to piles,’ says Dr Thornber. ‘Pregnant women can also often get constipated and this again can lead to haemorrhoids.’
Symptoms of haemorrhoids
Dr Thornber reveals the most common symptoms of haemorrhoids include the following:
- Itching around the bottom/anus area.
- Aching, soreness and sometimes swelling.
- Pain when going to the toilet (for a poo).
- A lumpcan sometimes appear outside the anus.
- Bleeding when going to the toilet.
How to treat haemorrhoids
Haemorrhoids can sometimes (but not always) go away on their own.
‘Try making changes to your diet. Eat more fibre and try some of the self-treatment remedies listed below,’ says Dr Thornber. ‘Typically, it can take between one week and one month for them to heal.’
The following tips can help you manage and treat your haemorrhoids:
✔️ Eat a diet rich in high-fibre foods (such as wholegrains, fruits and vegetables).
✔️ Drink plenty of water.
✔️ Improve your circulation, by talking regular exercise.
✔️ Avoid standing for long periods.
✔️ Press a cold cloth against the area to ease any pain.
✔️ Gently push the piles back in if they come out (this should be done with a clean finger – a lubricating jelly may help).
✔️ Avoid straining when going to the toilet.
✔️ Use over-the-counter creams, which may help – ask your pharmacist for advice.
When should you see your GP?
‘If your symptoms persist for over a month, then it’s important to consult your GP,’ advises Dr Thornber.
‘Bleeding that continues should always be checked. Your doctor will probably examine the area affected, and if necessary, they may refer you to a colorectal specialist, for diagnosis and treatment.’