Around 50% of us suffer with piles for the first time during pregnancy. Many women are too embarrassed to talk about the problem, but there’s plenty you can do to prevent and treat them. And remember, you’re far from alone.
What are they?
Piles, or to use their proper name, haemorrhoids, are swollen blood vessels that develop inside or outside the back passage (anus). More simply, they’re a varicose vein in your bottom! They can be extremely painful, and often begin with mild itching and pain during or after having a poo, as well as occasional bleeding from your bottom.
Why are pregnant women prone to them?
Hormone changes in pregnancy have an effect on veins in general, making them more elastic. Piles can occur at any stage of pregnancy but as your baby grows and gets heavier, you’re more at risk because of the increased pressure on your pelvic floor. If you get away without developing piles during pregnancy, you might get them later as a result of strenuous pushing in labour.
Can I prevent them?
You can certainly keep them at bay. Constipation – the result of sluggish circulation during pregnancy (also caused by hormonal changes) – can cause piles, thanks to too much sitting on the loo and straining to open your bowels. Try to drink plenty of water, and include fibre in your diet to help keep you regular. If you’re prone to constipation, your midwife or GP can prescribe a gentle laxative.
Regular gentle exercise can help improve circulation. Swimming is particularly good, but even a brisk walk each day will help. Pelvic floor exercises improve not only circulation around your vagina, but also around your bottom, which also reduces your risk of developing piles.
How do I treat them?
Stop suffering in silence! There’s a cream that can be applied to the area, and you can get it free on prescription from your midwife or GP. If you can feel the pile on the outside,
it’s possible to ‘pop’ it back in. If you can, take a look using a mirror, as that’s the best way of seeing if there are any changes in size or number. If you’re not sure whether or not what you’re looking at or feeling is a pile, ask your midwife. She’ll have seen enough in her time to be able to recognise them. If piles continue to be a problem after the birth, they can be removed, but be reassured – the vast majority disappear on their own.
A mum says…
“My piles started quite late in pregnancy. The first time I noticed them I thought I’d pooped my pants. I was too embarrassed to tell my midwife, but I told my husband and asked him to apply the cream, as I couldn’t quite reach. He said he loved me dearly but not that much. I still suffer from them, but they’re definitely getting better thanks to Anusol, my saviour in a tube,” said Emma Bold, 32, from Germany, mum to George, 11 months.
Just so you know…
- Any bleeding from the back passage should be checked out by your GP. Although it’s probably piles, it could be something more serious.
- A soak in a warm bath can help take the itchiness away from piles and nobody needs to know you’re in there for anything but a rest.
- Cold’s good too – try an ice pack to reduce inflammation – or pop some sanitary towels in the freezer.
- Whatever you heard at school, piles are not caused by sitting on a cold floor or by standing for too long.
- Haemorrhoids can be internal or external. You can see or feel external haemorrhoids as a small lump, which can feel similar to a grape in size and texture.