Pregnancy comes with a lot of changes, both physically and emotionally, but there’s one issue that many women don’t like to talk about: piles in pregnancy. Piles, or haemorrhoids, may not be the most glamorous topic, but it is a common condition that affects up to 35% of pregnant women in the UK.
Piles are swollen blood vessels in the rectum and anus, and can occur in both men and women - but are especially common during pregnancy. When pregnant, there’s a few reasons why piles may occur: constipation, extra levels of the hormone Relaxin in your system, increased pressure of the growing uterus, and the weight of the baby. These can all result in extra pressure, which causes the veins in the rectal area to swell, leading to discomfort and pain.
To add to the glamour of pregnancy, symptoms can range from mild to severe, can be internal or external, and include itching, pain and bleeding. The good news is, they can be easily soothed.
As with all pregnancy conditions, it’s important for women to seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms of piles throughout pregnancy to prevent complications and ensure they receive proper treatment.
You could also try soothing irritated and itchy anal skin by taking a warm bath, or using a cold compress. New for 2023, there is also Anusol™ Natural Cream, which is a non-medicated cosmetic formula, suitable for use whilst pregnant and breastfeeding. It helps bring comfort to irritated skin around the anal area with a combination of natural ingredients, including cooling Menthol, comforting Witch Hazel and soothing and organic Aloe Vera and Calendula. The alcohol-free formula is absorbed quickly and doesn’t leave stains, and it’s also suitable for vegans.
If you’re currently pregnant and experiencing piles, it’s important to understand that they are a normal part of pregnancy, and there are safe and effective treatment options available. Here’s our complete guide to piles in pregnancy.
Symptoms of piles in pregnancy
Piles during pregnancy can cause a range of symptoms that can affect your daily life. According to the NHS, they include:
Itching, aching, soreness and swelling around the anus
Pain when passing a stool and a mucus discharge afterwards
A lump or hard mass near the anus, which may be pushed back in after a stool
Bleeding during bowel movements - the blood is usually bright red
If you’re pregnant, it’s good to be aware of these symptoms and to seek medical attention if you experience any of them. While piles in general are common and usually not serious, severe symptoms may require treatment so it’s always better to get checked out if you experience any of the above symptoms.
How piles affect pregnancy
Haemorrhoids can have a significant impact on an expectant mother’s physical and emotional health, particularly during a time when she’s already feeling more uncomfortable, vulnerable and sensitive.
The discomfort and pain associated with piles can understandably make it difficult to perform daily activities like sitting, walking, and in some cases, sleeping. Plus, the added pressure on the rectum and anus can lead to constipation, causing further discomfort and aggravating the piles. In some cases, bleeding from piles can lead to anaemia, which can have serious implications for both the mother and her baby.
The emotional toll of piles
Aside from the physical symptoms mentioned above, piles during pregnancy may also take a toll on a mother’s emotional and mental health. Some pregnant women may feel embarrassment and shame associated with the condition, causing extra stress and anxiety and making it difficult to seek help. Consequently, the impact of piles on an expectant mother’s quality of life and mental well-being shouldn’t be ignored.
Can having piles hurt your baby during pregnancy?
No - having piles won’t affect or hurt your baby in any way.
Preventing piles in pregnancy
1. Diet and lifestyle changes
Eating a balanced diet rich in fibre and drinking plenty of water can help tremendously in preventing constipation, which is a major risk factor for developing piles while pregnant.
Also try to avoid sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time, taking regular breaks to move around and stretch your body.
2. Safe exercises
It’s common knowledge that regular exercise during pregnancy offers several benefits for your growing body and baby. By regularly exercising, you can help improve circulation and prevent constipation, which in turn reduces your risk of developing piles. Although, you should consult with your GP to determine which exercises are safe for you and your baby.
3. Reduce pressure on the rectum
Avoid straining during bowel movements when you visit the loo, as this can increase pressure on your rectum and lead to the development of piles. Also try not to sit on the toilet for too long, and use a stool or footrest to elevate your feet when sitting.
Treatment options for piles in pregnancy
1. Lifestyle changes
In addition to preventing piles, making lifestyle changes can also help alleviate symptoms if you’re already experiencing them. This includes eating a high-fibre diet, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding straining when passing a stool.
2. Topical treatments
There are some topical treatments available for piles, but it’s important to note that not all of them are safe to use while pregnant. Your GP can advise you on the best options for your particular situation. Some topical treatments may include witch hazel pads or creams, petroleum jelly, or a sitz bath.
“Yes to Anusol. It's wonderful.”
If you’re experiencing pain, your GP may recommend over-the-counter pain relief options like paracetamol. Paracetamol has been used by pregnant women for many years without any obvious harmful effects on the developing baby, so is usually recommended as the first choice of painkiller for pregnant women, according to bumps.
According to NICE guidelines, perineal hygiene is also important in relieving symptoms and preventing perineal dermatitis. Be sure to keep the area clean and dry.
In more severe cases, your GP may recommend procedures like rubber band ligation or sclerotherapy. However, these options are usually considered only if other treatments have been ineffective or you’re experiencing significant discomfort.
As with all pregnancies, symptoms differ from person to person, and the best treatment options for you may vary depending on your particular situation.
Natural ways to feel like yourself again
To help bring comfort in pregnancy, you can also try some of these natural methods for relief:
Warm baths: they can help soothe the area and adding Epsom salt can help reduce inflammation
Ice packs: applying one to the affected area can help reduce swelling and numb the area, providing pain relief
Witch hazel: this natural astringent cna help to reduce inflammation and soothe the skin - apply to pads or us it in a sitz bath
Aloe vera: anti-inflammatory properties can help soothe irritated skin - apply gel directly to the affected area
Anusol™ Natural Cream contains a soothing blend of these natural ingredients - including Aloe Vera, and Witch Hazel as well as Menthol and Calendula - and is a unique formulation that is designed to provide instant cooling relief and soothe irritated and itchy skin around the anal area.
Be sure to consult with your GP before trying natural remedies yourself while pregnant.
Bums – we don’t tend to talk about them, but one in two of them may get piles. At Anusol™, we understand that piles (haemorrhoids) might not be a subject you feel comfortable talking about – but there’s no need to suffer in silence!
When it comes to finding a widely available and effective treatment, the Anusol™ range offers a variety of easy-to-use treatments, including soothing creams, ointments and suppositories. The range also includes handy and hygienic wipes, to soothe and cleanse irritated skin around the anal area. In 2023, Anusol™ launched Anusol™ Natural Cream, a blend of aloe vera, menthol and Witch Hazel that soothes and cools discomfort – and it’s safe to use whilst pregnant or breastfeeding too!
About the author
Rebecca Roberts is a writer, editor, and content marketing expert hailing from Leeds. Here at Mumsnet, she brings parents content designed to make life easier. Having birthed two DC just 15 months apart, she knows all too well how pregnancy can affect your health. From piles, to morning sickness, to gestational diabetes and more; pregnancy life isn't always so glamorous. So, she's fully invested in finding the best treatments that help ease pregnancy symptoms.
Beyond her role as an editor here at Mumsnet, Rebecca can be found balancing life as a working mum of two toddlers and when she’s not at her desk, you’ll likely find her at a local playgroup, in a nearby coffee shop, or walking the dog.