With the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, expecting her first child with Prince Harry very soon, we are sure she has the best medical team on call leading up to the arrival of the royal baby.

It’s seldom spoken about, but hormonal changes and increased intra-abdominal pressure mean that one third of pregnant women are susceptible to getting haemorrhoids. So, what signs should Meghan (and other mums-to-be) be aware of when it comes to haemorrhoids, and how can they be treated?

What causes piles during pregnancy?

When you are pregnant, the volume of blood circulating around your body increases and the walls of your blood vessels relax from high levels of the progesterone hormone. At the same time, the veins below your womb become stretched and swollen from the weight of your growing baby – and this combination of elements can lead to piles.

Despite the discomfort they cause the mother, pregnancy haemorrhoids are generally painless, and they won’t affect the baby.

Some of the main symptoms Ms Markle and other mums should look out for:

  • Painless bleeding from your bottom or in the toilet after using the loo
  • Itching around your bottom
  • Feeling like your bowels still need emptying after you’ve gone
  • A soft, small lump that hangs out your bottom, or mucus discharge, after going to the loo
  • Finding it harder to control your bowel movements

How to prevent the onset of piles

Meghan should be aware of the main tactic used by anyone trying to avoid piles which is to prevent straining the bowel area. And one way to manage this is to ensure you do not get constipated.

  • Eat a high fibre diet, including whole-wheat products
  • Consume healthy, natural foods and plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Drink plenty of water to remain hydrated
  • Keep active – taking a short brisk walk everyday will help
  • Go to the toilet as soon as you feel the urge – waiting can cause constipation
  • Put your feet on a low stool when on the toilet to make your bowels open up easier
  • Do daily pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles in the pelvic area

What to do if they already exist?

If the Duchess of Sussex already has pregnancy haemorrhoids, there are various ways she could treat the issue to ease the symptoms and avoid them getting worse.

  • Use a cold compress, such as a cloth wrung out from iced water, to relieve any pain
  • Wiping with moist toilet wipes can be more comfortable than using toilet tissue
  • Gentle creams, ointments and suppositories can be prescribed by your doctor to soothe pain

Most pregnancy associated haemorrhoids recede in the first three months after delivery. But if this is not the case, there are procedures that will eradicate your haemorrhoidal symptoms, such as surgery or banding.

Dr Mark Hudson-Peacock, Chair of eXroid

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