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What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins inside your rectum or in the skin surrounding your anus. They’re usually caused by increased pressure on your lower rectum.
When you’re pregnant, the baby puts extra pressure on this area. As a result, hemorrhoids can develop both during and after pregnancy. They’re especially common after vaginal deliveries.
Hemorrhoids can cause several symptoms, including:
- bleeding during bowel movements
Read on to learn more about hemorrhoids after pregnancy and how to manage them.
Hemorrhoids will usually go away on their own. Depending on their size, location, and severity, this can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
Occasionally, hemorrhoids form a painful blood clot. This is known as a thrombosed hemorrhoid. While these clots aren’t dangerous, they can be extremely painful. A doctor can treat this type of hemorrhoid with a minimally invasive in-office procedure.
In addition, some hemorrhoids that become chronic, lasting several months or more. Like thrombosed hemorrhoids, these can usually be treated by a doctor.
Most cases of hemorrhoids resolve on their own, but there are several things you can do to speed healing time and reduce discomfort.
Here are a few natural remedies that’re safe to use while pregnant and breastfeeding:
- Avoid straining. Straining during a bowel movement puts more pressure on your rectal area. To give yourself time to heal, be mindful not to push, strain, or bear down when sitting on the toilet. Try to let gravity do most of the work.
- Add fiber to your diet. Dietary fiber helps to soften your stool while also giving it more bulk. A high-fiber diet can help treat and prevent constipation, which makes hemorrhoids worse. High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated also helps to prevent constipation.
- Soak the area. Soothe pain and irritation by soaking the area in warm bathwater for 10 to 15 minutes, two to three times per day. You can use your bathtub or a sitz bath.
- Keep the area clean. Keeping your anal area clean will help to prevent any additional irritation that might get in the way of the healing process. Rinsing the area with warm water should be enough.
- Use moistened wipes. Moistened wipes are gentler than dry toilet paper. Opt for fragrance-free wipes to avoid any irritation.
- Apply a cold pack. Use a clean ice pack or cold compress to reduce painful swelling. Just make sure to wrap it in a towel or cloth before placing it directly on your skin.
Topical medications and supplements can also help treat the symptoms of hemorrhoids. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before using any new over-the-counter treatments.
These treatments include:
- Stool softeners. Stool softeners help to moisten your stool so it can easily pass through your intestines.
- Fiber supplements. If dietary adjustments aren’t enough, you can consider taking a fiber supplement. These come in a number of forms, including drink mixes. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, make sure to talk to your doctor first.
- Medicated wipes. Medicated wipes, which often contain witch hazel, hydrocortisone, or lidocaine, can help relieve itchiness, pain, and inflammation.
- Hemorrhoid creams and suppositories. Hemorrhoid creams and suppositories help reduce pain and inflammation both externally and internally.
If you know that you have hemorrhoids, there’s no need to see a doctor unless they become very painful or don’t seem to be going away after a few weeks. You should also see your doctor if you feel a hard lump around your anus, as this may be a thrombosed hemorrhoid.
Seek emergency medical attention if you experience any uncontrollable anal bleeding.
It’s not unusual to develop hemorrhoids during or after pregnancy, especially following vaginal delivery. Most hemorrhoids clear up on their own within a few weeks, though some may stick around for months.
If home remedies, such as eating more fiber and soaking the area, don’t help or your hemorrhoids don’t seem to be getting any better, follow up with your doctor for additional treatment.