It’s always distressing if you find blood in your stool or see blood on the toilet paper after wiping. If you’re pregnant, you might feel particularly concerned. After all, your body is doing important work. You don’t want anything to go wrong, and you certainly don’t want to find out that you’re experiencing a serious medical issue.
Thankfully, except in rare cases, most instances of bloody stool during pregnancy are fairly innocuous and don’t signal a medical emergency. In fact, the majority of instances of bloody stool in pregnancy are because of common pregnancy ailments.
Is it normal to poop blood during pregnancy?
Rectal bleeding during pregnancy is quite common, likely because of how common constipation, hemorrhoids, and anal fissures are during pregnancy.
According to a 2020 review of studies, experiencing blood stool in pregnancy is common. The majority of the time, causes include nonserious conditions such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures. Rarely, bloody stool in pregnancy is caused by more serious conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. In especially rare cases, bloody stool may be caused by cancer.
Anal fissures usually only last about 6 weeks or so, but more serious anal fissures can become chronic. Symptoms of anal fissures include:
- Light bleeding while passing stool or after a bowel movement
- Blood from anal fissures is usually bright red
- Anal pain
- Pain during and after a bowel movement
Hemorrhoids occur when the veins around your anus and rectum get inflamed or become swollen. This usually happens because of straining while pooping or because of hard, impacted stool putting pressure on your anus and rectum.
Hemorrhoids are one of the most common pregnancy ailments, affecting between 25 to 35 percent of pregnant individuals. Constipation during pregnancy is one factor that makes hemorrhoids more likely. Additionally, pregnant people are more likely to experience hemorrhoids because of the increase in blood circulation that happens during pregnancy and the increased weight and pressure of the uterus.
Symptoms of hemorrhoids may include:
- Bright red blood in your stool, on the toilet paper after wiping, or in the toilet bowl after pooping
- Small, tender lumps close to your anus
- Pain when sitting
Although anal fissures and hemorrhoids are the most common causes of bloody stool in pregnancy, other causes can include having a stomach virus or bacterial infection that causes diarrhea. Blood in stool during pregnancy can also be caused by inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease), which can be exacerbated during pregnancy or emerge for the first time.
In rare instances, blood in stool during pregnancy may be caused by a malignancy, such as colorectal cancer. Incidences of this are rare; only about 1 in 1,000 pregnant people receive a diagnosis of cancer.
When to call a doctor
Bloody stool in pregnancy isn’t something to panic about. Still, you should talk with a doctor or midwife anytime you see blood in your stool during pregnancy. The majority of the time, it will be something like anal fissures or hemorrhoids. But occasionally, you might be experiencing something more serious, so it’s important that you discuss your symptoms with them.
Although inflammatory bowel disease is less likely, it can be associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes and needs to be treated promptly. It’s also important that a healthcare professional rules out serious conditions, such as colorectal cancer.
You may be wondering if you’re more likely to experience bloody stool during the first, second, or third trimester. Here’s what we know:
- Anal fissures and hemorrhoids can happen at any time during pregnancy, but they’re more likely to happen as your uterus gets larger or during times when you’re constipated.
- A 2022 review of studies noted that anal fissures and hemorrhoids were most likely in the third trimester of pregnancy.
- According to an
older 2014 study, of the pregnant people who experienced hemorrhoids, 61 percent experienced them in the third trimester, 1.6 percent experienced them in the first trimester, and 34 percent experienced them after giving birth.
Treating the common causes of bloody stool during pregnancy means treating the condition that is most likely to cause it: constipation. Once constipation is addressed, both anal fissures and hemorrhoids will be less likely to happen.
You’ll want to work on healing and treating the anal fissures and hemorrhoids themselves as well.
Treatment for constipation
According to an
- Increasing fiber in your diet and drinking extra fluids
- Adding more exercise and movement into your day
- Trying a bulk-forming agent such as psyllium or other fiber supplements
- With doctor/midwife approval, trying a stool softener or laxative
You can also discuss the option of trying an additional prenatal vitamin with a doctor or other healthcare professional, especially if you’re taking one with iron, which can cause constipation.
For best effect, make sure to space out taking a fiber supplement with any other medications or supplements you’re taking. Otherwise, the fiber can block your body from being able to absorb the medication properly.
Make sure to discuss any possibility of reactions or lessened effects with a doctor before you add a vitamin to your regimen as well.
Treatment for anal fissures during pregnancy
Some common ways to
- Taking a sitz bath or a short, warm bath
- Taking topical analgesics with a doctor’s or midwife’s approval
Treatment for hemorrhoids during pregnancy
- Sitz baths
- Epsom salt baths
- Hemorrhoid creams and suppositories
- Spending less time straining on the toilet
- Avoiding frequent sitting, or using a hemorrhoid pillow for comfort
- Wipes and pads soaked in witch hazel
If you’re pregnant and you notice blood after pooping or blood in your poop, it’s understandable that you may feel alarmed or distressed. You may even feel embarrassed and ashamed. Still, it’s important that you share these symptoms with a doctor or midwife. You can be assured that a doctor or other healthcare professional won’t find this surprising, as bloody stool is quite common in pregnancy.
In the vast majority of cases, an anal fissure or hemorrhoids will be diagnosed, and you’ll be given tips for how to manage these conditions. If a doctor or other healthcare professional believes other causes are to blame, they may discuss further testing with you.