Did you know up to 50 percent of pregnant women will experience constipation and/or hemorrhoids at some point, most often during the third trimester and postpartum period? Here’s how to cope.
Below the surface
This devilish duo doesn’t always stick together, but their causes go hand in hand. Your growing uterus gives the gut less room to do its job, which contributes to constipation. It also pushes against the large vein near your spine that pumps blood from the pelvis back to the heart. The compression causes those vessels to bulge out (as does pushing during bowel movements or labor), resulting in hemorrhoids—painful, itchy varicose veins at the anus.
Keep it moving
“Constipation can almost always be prevented, but while you can reduce the risk of hemorrhoids, some women will get them no matter what they do,” says Gilbert W. Webb, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in St. Louis (drgilbertwebb.com). Prevention starts with diet. Up your fluid and fiber intake with plenty of water, leafy greens, celery sticks, prune juice and apple cider. Webb also recommends staying active (“a walk every day is a good approach”) and trying Kegel exercises before and after baby’s arrival to improve circulation and keep hemorrhoids at bay.
Take heart that bowel function usually returns to prepregnancy status six to eight weeks after D-day. Hemorrhoids typically go away on their own—but not always, Webb notes. Any that linger beyond two months postdelivery aren’t going to resolve without some help, so talk with your doctor about treatment options.