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Rectal bleeding is an unpleasant pregnancy symptom, but it’s not uncommon in the third trimester and in the weeks following delivery. Bleeding from your rectal area is usually nothing to worry about, and it won’t harm your pregnancy in any way. However, rectal bleeding should be mentioned to your doctor or midwife.
What Causes Rectal Bleeding in Pregnancy?
In most cases, rectal bleeding in pregnant women is caused by hemorrhoids – a pregnancy symptom that occurs when blood vessels in your rectal area become swollen. Hemorrhoids are common in the final months of pregnancy. If you’re constipated and you strain when you pass a bowel movement or you pass hard stools, the swollen veins in the rectum can bleed, leading to rectal bleeding.
Another cause of rectal bleeding in pregnancy is anal fissures, which are painful cracks in the skin of your anus. Anal fissures can also be caused from passing hard stools (due to constipation – another common pregnancy symptom). An estimated 1 in 100 pregnant women will develop an anal fissure in their third trimester. Anal fissures are also a huge postpartum problem – roughly 1 in 7 new mothers will suffer them.
How to Prevent Rectal Bleeding when Pregnant
Rectal bleeding in pregnancy can be worrisome, but if you target and fix the main problem that’s causing this symptom, it should go away on its own. In most cases, both hemorrhoids and anal fissures are caused by constipation. So, you can prevent rectal bleeding in pregnancy by preventing constipation. Consider the following dietary changes:
- Eat a high fiber diet, which includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals.
- Drink at least six to eight glasses of water each day. Being hydrated is beneficial for your other pregnancy symptoms, but it can keep things moving in your bowels and make your stools softer. Drinking a glass of fruit juice (such as prune juice) can also help when you’re struggling with constipation.
- Make sure that you exercise on a regular basis. For most pregnant women, exercising is considered safe. Taking a brief walk or jog each day can really ease constipation and make you feel healthier.
- Always go to the bathroom when you have the urge to go. Holding and waiting to have a bowel movement can make your stools drier and harder.
If constipation is a huge problem, talk to your healthcare provider about a safe laxative or stool softener that you can take.
In most cases, anal fissures will heal themselves within several weeks. Hemorrhoids often disappear once the pressure is taken off them. This can be difficult during pregnancy, since you have to carry a heavy and constantly expanding uterus. You might have to wait and suffer until after your baby is born.
Tips for Coping with Rectal Bleeding in Pregnancy
Sometimes, you will just become constipated and you may end up with rectal bleeding. So what can you do to get some relief?
Try using a cold compress, such as an ice pack. Some pregnant women find that applying an ice pack around their bottom gives them some relief.
If you’re having itchiness or pain, you might want to soak in a warm bath. It’s important that you resist the urge to scratch your rectal area, since this can make this pregnancy symptom even worse.
After you have a bowel movement, you should gently and thoroughly clean the area. You may consider wiping with moist toilet wipes is more comfortable and soothing than dry toilet paper.
When to Call the Doctor
Rectal bleeding is a normal pregnancy symptom, often due to hemorrhoids, constipation, or anal fissures. However, you should mention any bleeding that you notice in pregnancy. The blood that appears on your toilet paper, or in your underwear, could be coming from your rectum or from your vagina. If the blood is coming from your vagina, that might mean something is wrong. So tell your doctor about bleeding, just to be on the safe side.
In most causes, rectal bleeding in pregnancy that comes from anal fissures or hemorrhoids will go away on its own, especially if you make dietary changes to keep constipation away.