pregnancy

The painful and embarrassing pregnancy problem no one talks about.

I’m currently eight months pregnant with my third child and everything’s going great except for a little problem that’s decided to rear its ugly head again. Yep, that’s right haemorrhoids.

The pressure of the baby weight on my nether regions is getting too much and so now my backside is taking the brunt. Charming isn’t it? Just one of the many perks of motherhood that I’m no stranger to (I’ve written about post-birth ‘roid rage’ and parenthood surprises before).

Super embarrassing, it’s no wonder no one wants to talk about haemorrhoids (also known as piles). Yet, 20-50% of all pregnant women will get them, along with around half of the general male and female population by age 50. Yippee! Being a human is fun.

Watch: The pregnancy questions you were too afraid to ask. Post continues after video…

If you’ve never had them before then you’re probably pretty clueless about what the hell they are. I’ll tell you from experience – they suck. Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent and treat them though. Let me answer all your questions with a roid rundown:

So, what are they exactly?

Haemorrhoids are enlarged blood vessels in the rectum or anus, a bit like varicose veins. There are three different types: internal – painless with some bleeding; external – skin lumps around the anus that are usually painless; and prolapsed – very painful, sensitive swollen veins that hang out of the anus as lumps and often bleed. Ouch indeed.

How common are they?

Despite being rarely discussed in public, Dr. Daria Fielder, General Practitioner at Sapphire Family Medical Practice, Bondi Junction; sees at least one case of haemorrhoids every few days. “Typically I see them in women. It may have to do with the fact that women are much more likely to seek and help and present to the doctor,” she says.

How do you get them?

According to Dr. Fielder, the main reason for haemorrhoids occurring is prolonged straining on the toilet as a result of constipation. For me personally though, I unfortunately have inherited a hereditary proneness to them which was kick-started by that stupid undies craze in the late 90s and noughties – g-strings. Now as an adult, pregnancy and child birth is the main culprit, although sometimes being really rundown and stressed can bring them on too.

Good times. Image supplied.

Here are the most common causes:

• Constipation and straining on the toilet
• Pregnancy, due to excess weight and pressure on the bowels
• Hereditary factors
• Traumatic, prolonged second stage labour – pushing phase especially if haemorrhoids are already present
• Heavy lifting or heavy manual labour

Additional haemorrhoidal causes or aggravators can be chronic diarrhoea, being overweight or elderly, anal intercourse, stress, poor immunity, G-strings or other irritating underwear, rough toilet paper, and either standing or sitting (especially on hard surfaces) for long periods of time.

Yikes, how do I stop them?

As constipation is by far the main cause for most people it’s therefore essential to address your diet. Dr. Fielder recommends plenty of fibre, vegetables, fruit and water; and for those already constipated, also a fibre supplement to encourage soft, regular stools that are easy to pass without straining.

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What’s that about squatting?!

There’s a reason why Eastern cultures have fewer haemorrhoids than the West, they squat to do their business which is naturally the best position for your muscles. If you’re constipated and not willing to give that a whirl, then try using a foot rest when on the toilet. It will relieve pressure on your rectum and reduce the chances of haemorrhoids occurring or worsening.

Yikes! How do I stop them? Image supplied.

What else can I do?

“I generally recommend ice compression and haemorrhoidal ointments or suppositories that not only reduce pain but also assist in shrinking haemorrhoids,” says Dr. Fielder. “...where this is not successful and symptoms persist, there are other options including band litigation and surgical correction,” she adds. Be aware though that some of these procedures can be quite invasive and painful, and can also lead to other problems.

Here are a bunch of other things you can try for pain relief also:

• Acupuncture, a surprisingly common method of treatment (not on the backside itself)
• Naturopathy
• Home remedies like apple cider vinegar, coconut oil or aloe vera
• Warm baths
• Sitting on cushions

If haemorrhoids are due to pregnancy, often they can resolve on their own without any treatment –but this isn’t always the case. Ways to prevent them include not sitting or standing for too long at a time and avoiding constipation by keeping regular through good diet and exercise.

Um, I think I’ve been left a souvenir...

For some, even after successfully treating haemorrhoids, sometimes lumps called skin tags are left behind permanently. Although usually painless, they can be really embarrassing, annoying and potentially unhygienic. If asymptomatic, Dr. Fielder does not recommend treatment; however if for cosmetic reasons you want them removed then a small surgical procedure is possible. Phew.

Um, I think I've been left with a souvenir...Image supplied.

Hang on, is that blood?

“If you have any blood in your stool, do not ignore it, always see your GP,” says Dr. Fielder. “Even though most of bright red blood associated with a painful lump is unlikely to be sinister, it needs to be looked at by the doctor in order not to miss more dangerous causes of rectal bleeding such as bowel cancer...”

In summary, the best cure really is prevention. Ensuring your bowels are healthy by adopting a good diet and lifestyle is the easiest way to avoid haemorrhoids in the first instance and prevent more from occurring. Even if constipation and straining on the toilet aren’t the cause of your haemorrhoids, having regular and healthy bowel movements will help ease any symptoms and is also a great foundation for overall wellbeing – whether you get piles or not.

So there you have it. Haemorrhoids 1-0-1.

Have you experienced a bit of roid rage recently?

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