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Varicose Veins, Hemorrhoids, and Constipation

Varicose veins, which are usually found in the legs and genital area, occur when blood pools in veins enlarged by the hormones of pregnancy. Varicose veins often disappear after pregnancy, but you can lessen them by:

  • avoiding standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • wearing loose-fitting clothing
  • wearing support hose
  • elevating your feet when you sit

What to do while waiting for baby to arrive? Schedule a prenatal consultation

Hemorrhoids — varicose veins in the rectum — are common during pregnancy as well. Because your blood volume has increased and your uterus puts pressure on your pelvis, the veins in your rectum may enlarge into grape-like clusters. Hemorrhoids can be extremely painful, and they may bleed, itch, or sting, especially during or after a bowel movement. Coupled with constipation, another common pregnancy woe, hemorrhoids can make going to the bathroom downright unpleasant.

Constipation is common because pregnancy hormones slow the rate of food passing through the gastrointestinal tract. During the later stages of pregnancy, your uterus may push against your large intestine, making it difficult to have a bowel movement. Constipation can contribute to hemorrhoids because straining to go may enlarge the veins of the rectum.

The best way to combat constipation and hemorrhoids is to prevent them. Eating a fiber-rich diet, drinking plenty of fluids daily, and exercising regularly can help keep bowel movements regular. Stool softeners (not laxatives) may also help. If you do have hemorrhoids, see your doctor for a cream or ointment that can shrink them.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: October 2014

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