Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Piles or haemorrhoids

Posted on: February 25, 2009

Piles or haemorrhoids

Often the butt of jokes, but not a joke if you are suffering!

Of course not everyone gets piles, but they tend to occur from around the middle of pregnancy, they will probably remain throughout the pregnancy and may take several weeks to disappear after the birth.

Haemorrhoids are varicose veins in your anus or back passage and because of the hormonal influences in pregnancy the walls and valves in the veins around your anus can relax and stretch; also the weight of your growing uterus and baby put pressure and slows the blood flow and if you get constipated this exacerbates the effect even more.

You may experience a feeling of fullness in your back passage, itching, soreness, pain when you open your bowels and, sometimes, a small amount of fresh bleeding afterwards.

How can you help?

Try to avoid constipation by eating a high fibre diet and drinking lot of fluids.  Some sources suggest that eating raw garlic, onions, and parsley to increase the elasticity of your veins, and avoid constipation.  Sunflower seeds and wheatgerm are rich in vitamin E, a deficiency of which is linked with varicosities.  A daily vitamin E supplement of up to 600 IU is recommended to help repair broken capillaries. Rutin supplements will build up the walls of the veins, but should not be taken until the fourth month of pregnancy. Buckwheat is a good source of rutin that you can include in your diet.  Increasing your intake of vitamin-C-rich foods will promote healing and strengthen blood vessels, and raw beetroot/beets, either grated or as a juice, will fortify the liver and aid elimination. It is best to avoid spicy foods and aloe vera products.  When opening your bowels, try to relax and avoid straining.

Regular pelvic floor exercises may help to boost the circulation of blood in the area and gentle exercise such as walking and swimming may also help.

Ask your pharmacist, midwife or doctor to recommend a suitable haemorrhoid cream.

Take regular warm baths as this will ease the itching and pain. Some women find comfort with an ice pack, while others swear by warmth. Alternate between warm baths and cold icepacks to find which brings you the most relief.

Gently but thoroughly clean the affected area after each bowel movement. Some women find wiping with medicated pads more comfortable than using toilet tissue.

Try a herbal “sitz” bath which is a bidet or bowl with the following ingredients:

120g (4oz) dried witchhazel
60g (2oz) comfrey root
2.25l (4pt) water

Steep the witchhazel and comfrey root in the water and simmer for 8 hours. Strain into a shallow bowl and discard the herbs. Sit in the solution for 15 minutes at least twice a day. Dry the genital area thoroughly after use. The solution can be re-used and is soothing even when haemorrhoids are severe.

Take the pressure off your rectal veins to reduce the chance of developing haemorrhoids or to relieve the pain if you already have them. Avoid sitting or standing for long stretches of time, and sleep on your side, not your back.  Try lying on the left side for 20 minutes 4 to 6 times a day.

Analgesia such as paracetamol during pregnancy and ibuprofen (after the baby is born, if you are not asthmatic) can be helpful.

A special “Valley” cushion, which takes the pressure of the affected area can also be hired from the NCT

Complementary therapies may also be helpful; acupuncture, aromatherapy, shiatsu, herbalism and homoeopathy are all suggested as being beneficial but it is always wise to consult a practitioner who will advise you directly.

Try raising the foot of your bed a little with books or bricks, or even put books under your mattress or sleep with a pillow under your ankles.  Support stocking may also be beneficial.

Make up a potato poultice (a layer of hot mashed potato between two layers of muslin) and sit on it as soon as the heat is bearable; this encourages the piles to shrink back in.  Another suggestion is to use grated raw potato.

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