Women should enjoy and embrace all of the amazing changes that happen to their bodies during pregnancy — including hemorrhoids — said no woman ever. While most of what happens when we’re preparing for Baby is magical, painful and itchy hemorrhoids are most certainly not.
Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins that develop in and around your anus and lower rectum when you put too much pressure on that sensitive area of your body. For those lucky enough to never have experienced them, hemorrhoids absolutely, positively suck in that same way that acne sucks — only times that suckiness by 100,000 because, at the very least, you can cover acne with makeup and it doesn’t prevent you from pooping in peace. One day you’re doing just fine, the next — holy cow, what the hell is going on?! Every time you have to use the bathroom, you just know you’re in for the second worst pain (after childbirth).
Many women go through life never knowing the torture of a hemorrhoid until they get pregnant. There are several reasons why women suffer from them during pregnancy, including increased blood volume, increased body weight, constipation, straining bowel movements and — the biggie — actual childbirth and delivery, according to general surgeon Michelle E. Gordon, who founded Northern Westchester Surgical Associates.
Let’s say, despite how many prunes and gallons of water you’ve inhaled, you still develop hemorrhoids. Now what? We spoke with experts who provided nine helpful tips on how to deal with hemorrhoids.
1. Add lots and lots of fiber to your diet
And we’re not just talking about one prune a day. Dr. Matthew Brennecke at the Rocky Mountain Wellness Clinic says we should be adding 25 grams of fiber to our diets to both prevent hemorrhoids and ensure the ones we have aren’t aggravated. “Fiber adds bulk to your bowel movement and will allow your digestive system to easily expel waste,” Brennecke said. “Get your fiber from either a supplement or get it through your diet.”
Dietitian Jo Bartell, who is currently head of coaching at Rise, an app that pairs people with a one-on-one registered dietitian, suggests foods like brown rice, barley, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, bell peppers, leafy greens, nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, walnuts, sunflower/pumpkin seeds) and fruits with edible skin, like apples, pears and berries.
2. Stay hydrated
Bartell says to drink lots and lots of water — which we should all be doing anyway, right? “Warm beverages like hot water with lemon or clear broth can also be a lifesaver when it comes to constipation,” Bartell said. “Liquid will soften everything and helps it slide through the GI tract more easily.”
Ever notice how everything feels like it’s moving better in your body after a long run? It isn’t just your imagination. “Moving the body even just with daily walking gets things going,” Bartell said. “Like fiber, exercise can help food and waste move through the GI tract more quickly. Inactivity or sedentary behavior is actually a huge risk factor for constipation, which can lead to hemorrhoids.”
4. Talk to your doctor about your iron supplement
Many women are prescribed iron supplements during pregnancy, but one side effect of those pills is constipation, which can either cause hemorrhoids or aggravate the ones you have, Bartell says. Women should always consult their doctors if constipation becomes severe.
5. Try a sitz bath
Hey, even if a sitz bath doesn’t work for you, the worst thing that can happen is that you enjoy a few minutes of warm water and relaxation. You can fill up your tub halfway (you’ll need just enough water to cover your bottom) or purchase a special sitz bath seat, available at medical supplies stores and some drugstores. Just the simple act of soaking in the water helps to relieve the pain and itching associated with hemorrhoids. Depending on the severity of your hemorrhoids, your doctor may suggest you add salt to your bath.
More: Real moms confess: Unexpected pregnancy side effects
6. Apply a botanical treatment
Not into medicines that contain chemicals? Why not try a botanical treatment? “Use Calendula officinalis topically for the itch; Arnica montana or Chamomilla in a cool compress; Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) topically for soreness, prolapse and venous congestion,” Brennecke suggests.
7. Use an over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream
Creams like Preparation H — or, if you prefer wipes, Tucks — aren’t going to cure your hemorrhoids, Brennecke said. But, sometimes you just need fast relief from the annoying itching and pain and these topical treatments deliver it fast.
8. Visit a chiropractor
Believe it or not, there could be more going on in your body than you know that may be contributing to hemorrhoids. “Have them look at the alignment of your sacrum and coccyx,” Brennecke said. “If the bones are not in proper place, they can put pressure on the cardiovascular system, causing more venous pressure.”
9. Consider surgery
Think of this one as the nuclear option — but one that is nice to know exists if your hemorrhoids are so severe you can’t manage the discomfort any longer. Of course, wait until after you give birth to consider surgical intervention.