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What could cause rectal bleeding during pregnancy?
Rectal bleeding during pregnancy is typically caused by hemorrhoids, which are unusually swollen blood vessels in the rectal area. Hemorrhoids are relatively common during pregnancy, particularly in the last trimester and in the weeks after giving birth.
You might notice blood in your stool or on toilet paper if these swollen veins bleed when you:
- Strain during a bowel movement
- Pass hard stools
- Rub too hard when you wipe
Anal fissures are another cause of rectal bleeding. You may get these painful cracks in the skin around your anus if you pass hard stools because of constipation (another common condition during pregnancy).
How can I prevent bleeding hemorrhoids and anal fissures in pregnancy?
Constipation can cause both hemorrhoids and anal fissures (or make them worse), so staying regular helps. Try these tips to prevent and ease constipation:
- Eat high-fiber foods, such as whole grain cereals and breads as well as fresh fruits and vegetables every day. You could also add a couple tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran (available at health food stores) to your breakfast cereal.
- Drink plenty of water. A glass of fruit juice each day (especially prune juice) can also be helpful.
- Exercise regularly. Walking, swimming, and yoga can all ease constipation.
- Listen to your body. Don't wait to go to the bathroom when you feel the urge.
- Ask your healthcare provider about taking an over-the-counter fiber supplement and temporarily switching to a prenatal vitamin with less iron (which can be constipating).
How can I soothe bleeding hemorrhoids during pregnancy?
Some women find it soothing to use an ice pack or cold compresses soaked in witch hazel, while others swear by a heating pad. See which works best for you by alternating hot and cold treatments: Start with an ice pack followed by a warm bath.
Use soft, unscented, white toilet tissue because this kind is less irritating than other varieties. Or use premoistened flushable wipes instead.
There are also many hemorrhoid relief products on the market, so ask your provider to recommend a safe topical anesthetic or medicated suppository. Most of these products are intended to be used for only a short course of treatment (a week or less) because continued use can cause even more inflammation.
Should I call my provider about bleeding hemorrhoids and anal fissures?
Let your provider know if you see blood on toilet tissue or in your panties – it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether the blood is coming from your rectum or your vagina, and your provider can determine this with a physical exam.
Rectal bleeding is not usually a sign of a serious problem in women of childbearing age, and bleeding from hemorrhoids and anal fissures usually stops on its own, especially if you take steps to prevent or treat constipation.
If you've tried the measures above and the bleeding continues, or if you have severe pain, you may be referred to a specialist for treatment.