Ask the midwife – Piles: what they are and how to treat them

How to treat piles
Pregnancy is full of highs and lows, and one of the lowest lows of all? Piles. We've been asking a midwife about what to do to help alleviate this condition...

While some women are lucky enough to sail through pregnancy looking like they stepped straight out of a stylised Insta-feed, for many of us it comes with a whole heap of ‘fun’ issues that leave us feeling like we’ve been run over by a pregnancy train. Heartburn, morning sickness, stretch marks (and in our case stretch marks on top of stretch marks)… it can feel like a looong nine months. But one of the worst pregnancy woes of all? Piles. Officially known as haemorrhoids, this not-so-lovely condition is a real issue that many women face during and beyond pregnancy. We’ve been speaking to midwife and pregnancy guru Natasha Cullen from Beloved Bumps, on how to treat piles and alleviate the itchy, horrible symptoms.

Hi Natasha, and thanks for talking to us about this subject, as we know that a lot of women find this embarrassing to talk about. So…

What causes piles?

Piles, also known as haemorrhoids, are quite common in pregnancy, and can also happen after giving birth. It should be noted though that although they are condition seen frequently during pregnancy, they can happen to anyone at any time in life! 

Because your body is producing progesterone during pregnancy though, this is a time when you are more at risk from an attack of piles. The progesterone causes the walls of your blood vessels to relax. This, coupled with any constipation and the weight of your baby, puts more pressure on your body and veins, thus increasing the chances of experiencing piles. They can also occur after you have had your baby if you have been pushing through delivery.

What are the symptoms of piles?

If you notice any itching or soreness around your anus, pain when passing stools, lumps hanging outside of your anus, or bleeding (usually bright red) after passing a stool, then you may have piles.

Are there any treatments to alleviate the discomfort of piles?

So what can you do to ease piles? Well, you can try:

  • Changing your diet to make sure it’s packed with foods that are high in fibre (think wholemeal bread, fruit, vegetables, and lots of water). This will help with constipation that can seriously agitate the condition. 
  • Using wet wipes rather than toilet paper to wipe
  • Placing ice packs or a wrung towel of iced water against them to relieve irritation
  • Avoiding standing up for a long period of time
  • Pelvic floor exercises to encourage blood flow to the area
  • If the piles stick out you can try and gently push the piles back into the rectum using a lubricant (so much ewww, but to quote a HoneyKids mum, “I wish that someone had told me this when I was suffering during the early postnatal days. I since learnt that it’s best to do this early on while you are still healing after labour, rather than later down the line as the body is less inclined heal. Piles, for me, was THE worst thing about having a baby.”)

If these tricks don’t work do go and see your Doctor who can give you a topical cream to relieve the irritation.

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