Pregnancy Information Complications Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids and varicose veins are so common during pregnancy that they may be more properly considered pregnancy symptoms rather than complications. Hemorrhoids and varicose veins occur during pregnancy due to hormonal and physical changes.

Pregnancy is accompanied by an increase in progesterone levels, which relaxes the walls of the veins, increasing the risk of blood vessel swelling and symptoms such as hemorrhoids and varicose veins. Blood volume increases during pregnancy, further increasing the chance of hemorrhoids and varicose veins.

In addition, pregnancy puts pressure on veins as the uterus expands and the fetus grows. This enlarges blood vessels in the anus and the legs, adding yet another factor that contributes to hemorrhoids.

Constipation is another of the more common pregnancy symptoms, and can contribute to hemorrhoid formation due to bowel straining. The combination of all these factors sharply increases the odds that a pregnant woman will experience varicose veins or hemorrhoids.

Varicose Veins Varicose Veins and Pregnancy Symptoms

Varicose veins occur when blood vessels become congested and blood leaks back into the veins. The veins enlarge in response, become swollen and are raised above the skin surface. Varicose veins are purple or blue in color, and resemble tangled cords. During pregnancy, varicose veins may develop on the back, the inside of the legs and the calves.

Although unsightly, varicose veins are not usually painful. If pregnancy symptoms include painful varicose veins or veins that are swollen, red or tender, report the symptoms to your doctor as soon as possible.

Like many other pregnancy symptoms, varicose veins usually diminish after the pregnancy. However, some varicose veins may remain after pregnancy.

Hemorrhoids and Pregnancy Symptoms

Hemorrhoids are among the most uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms. Essentially, hemorrhoids are varicose veins that develop in the anus, and sometimes in the vagina. Hemorrhoids can be painful, especially when sitting or having a bowel movement.

Symptoms of hemorrhoids during pregnancy include:

  • anal pain
  • bright red blood on toilet paper or stool
  • itchiness in the anus or vagina
  • pain during bowel movements
  • tender, firm lumps near the anus.

On occasion, hemorrhoids may be visible outside the anus, indicated by a swollen mass that is soft to the touch.

While many non-prescription treatments for hemorrhoids exist, consult your doctor before using any of them during pregnancy. Some may have adverse affects on the fetus.

Treating Hemorrhoid Symptoms

Taking ten to twenty minute sitz baths several times a day can provide relief from symptoms of hemorrhoids. Some women find relief using cold compresses or ice packs, and you can medicate the ice pack with witch hazel. In other cases, a hot compress reduces symptoms, or you can try alternating hot and cold compresses.

Preventing Hemorrhoids and Varicose Veins

Of course, the best strategy is to avoid having varicose veins or hemorrhoids in the first place. You may not be able to completely avoid them during pregnancy, but the following tips can reduce the risks:

  • Avoid standing for long periods.
  • Don’t cross your legs.
  • Don’t hold bowel movements: go when you need to.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat a high fiber diet.
  • Elevate your legs when resting.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Practice regular Kegel exercises.

Resources

Baby Center. (updated 2005). Hemorrhoids during pregnancy.

Beers, M. H.,