Pregnancy and Hemorrhoids is a common problem amongst women. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to developing hemorrhoids due to the consistent pressure that is exerted by the fetus upon the pelvic region. The continual straining that occurs during bowel movements as a result of this pressure can result in the hemorrhoidal veins of the anus becoming inflamed and swollen, making an eventual tear in the wall of the anal canal inevitable. Hypertension, which can also occur during pregnancy, is another factor thought to be linked with the development of a hemorrhoidal condition. Pregnant women who are suffering from hemorrhoids can benefit from all of the preventative measures and treatment remedies that are available and recommended to others. However, because of the nature of the bodily changes and hormonal shifts women experience while pregnant, there are also exercises and regimes specifically tailored to pregnancy that deserves mention. It is the purpose of this article to address the treatments available to pregnant women and the possible courses of action that can assist alleviating the hemorrhoids, its symptoms, and also aid as preventative measures to help keep them from occurring in the first place.
Pregnancy and Hemorrhoids is typically a passing concern, and usually clears up shortly following delivery. However, in certain cases, where damage to the anal canal has been severe for a long enough duration, conditions might arise that require implementation of thorough corrective measures without which a worsening of the condition might occur. To deal with this scenario, there are a variety of exercises one can perform. Two factors that can lead to hemorrhoids developing, in addition to poor diet and poor bowel habits, are poor muscle tone and incorrect posture. These causal mechanisms, which operate in the rest of the population as well, are considerably more pronounced in pregnant women because of the nature of the physical demands on her body.
Pregnancy and Hemorrhoids is therefore frequently amenable to treatments that address physical, bodily conditions, such as the state of one’s musculature, the symptoms of which can be reduced if certain regiments are adhered to. For example, pregnant women are advised to lie on their left side daily for approximately fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, every four to six hours. Executing this exercise can reduce the amount of pressure exerted by the fetus onto the rectal area, and therefore lessen any hemorrhoid symptoms present, and possibly retard their development. Additionally, as a practical measure, using a donut-shaped pillow cushion, which will off-set one’s body weight so it does not focus directly onto the anus, can provide preliminary, temporary relief of pain or discomfort.
Pregnancy and hemorrhoid treatments also make use of the Kegel Exercise System. Kegel exercises were created in the nineteen forties by Dr. Arnold Kegel as a means to improve pelvic muscle tone, specifically the pelvic and vaginal muscles that sustain the bladder. Originally, Dr. Kegel developed the exercises to assist pregnant women maintain vaginal muscle tone during both delivery and recovery. However, in addition to helping with issues pertaining to childbirth, the Kegel system has also been linked to increased blood flow to the rectum and general improvement in all round anal circulation, which is often a contributing factor to hemorrhoidal flare-ups. In addition to toning the muscles of the vagina, the Kegel regiment also helps to reinforce the muscles of the anal canal, therefore helping to prevent existing hemorrhoids from becoming externalized, extended or enlarged, as well as retarding the development of new hemorrhoids. There are a number of health benefits associated with Kegel exercises, not all of which are relevant to bowel care, but should be mentioned. Kegel exercises have also been associated with preventing the vaginal leakage that occurs during pregnancy, increasing sexual gratification by increasing the supply of blood to the genitals, and assisting women to achieve stronger orgasms. Although quite outside the scope of this article, Kegel exercises are also sometimes recommended for the treatment of vaginal and uterine prolapse. In these cases (and cases too, involving the treatment of hemorrhoids), the final objective is to strengthen the pubococcygeus muscles of the pelvic floor. The pubococcygeal muscle, also referred to as the PC muscle, is shaped like a U and extends from the pubic bone at the base of the pelvis to the coccyx bone, or tail bone, at the base of the spine. The exercises are quite simple to master, and can be performed anywhere.
Pregnancy and Hemorrhoids, of course, produces a different set of complications and symptoms from the issues Kegel exercises were originally created to address. As such, a note on protocol is necessary. To perform the exercises correctly, one needs only contract the muscles of the anus for a count of three to four seconds; and in the event one is experiencing a flare-up that is particularly painful, one is advised not to tighten so tensely that pain or discomfort is generated. Exhale and release slowly, relax, and then repeat. Perform the exercise in three sets of five to six repetitions, and increase repetitions when possible. It is advisable to practice this regiment four times a day, slowly building the intensity of each contraction. Try not to tighten the anal muscles too hastily, and be sure to hold the contraction for the appropriate count.
Pregnancy and Hemorrhoids also necessitate using all of the standard preventative measures and remedies employed by women who are not pregnant, commencing with changes in one’s diet. Increasing the amount of fiber, whether dietary fiber or bulk fiber, is typically one of the initial courses of action prescribed, and invariably also includes increasing the volume of water one ingests in a day, which will aid with digestion and reduce constipation. Greater consumption of fruits, vegetables, and grains, as well as the use of stool softeners or laxatives (make sure to first consult with a doctor) to produce easier bowel movements is also recommended, as is the application of various ointments or creams composed of ingredients that lessen the symptoms of itching, swelling, and pain. Bathing in sitz baths three to four times a day for up to twenty minutes at a time is also commonly employed, and may reduce symptoms of swelling, pain, and discomfort. Other options to consider include remaining vigilant about one’s anal hygiene; using warm water after a bowel movement to keep the inflamed site as clean as possible; increasing, or adopting an exercise routine to aid in digestion and increase one’s metabolism; weight reduction; and making use of moist toilettes instead of harsh toilet paper to lessen abrasion in the anus and reduce irritation. All of these standard considerations should be employed along with, rather than as a substitution for, the exercises tailored specifically to issues regarding the treatment of Pregnancy and Hemorrhoids.
David Gilbert received his BA from U.C.L.A. He is currently doing graduate work in psychology at California Graduate Institute, in Los Angeles, CA. Throughout his career in the mental health field he has worked clinically with several populations, and also contributed to academic works whose topics address both health and mental health issues.
© Hemorrhoid Information Center – H.I.C. Digestive Health 2010