Everything about pregnancy-related nasal decongestion, its symptoms, causes and remedies. We hope that our article will solve your problems.
When Maggie Jordan of Valencia, Penn., was pregnant with her third child, her sinuses reacted with a vengeance. For the full nine months, she suffered with a stuffy nose and sinus pain. Her doctor sent her to an ear, nose and throat specialist who told her it was due to the pregnancy and not to a medical condition. He prescribed a decongestant, but Jordan decided to just live with the problem rather than taking medication while she was pregnant.
“I did find some relief from those nasal strips,” says Jordan. “They helped me breathe at night, but everything in my head just seemed to go crazy with that pregnancy – my sinuses, my allergies, everything. The doctor couldn’t really figure out why, but I was miserable for nine months.” (Pregnancy-related Nasal Decongestion)
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A Common Problem
The reason Jordan’s doctor couldn’t find a problem was because the only problem Jordan had was that she was suffering from rhinitis of pregnancy. In other words, pregnancy-related nasal congestion. Stuffy nose, as well as an increase in other problems that cause a stuffy nose, such as allergies and asthma, is a common occurrence in pregnancy. In fact, it has been estimated that up to 30 percent of pregnant women experience this symptom, which often begins in the third month and lasts until delivery or shortly thereafter.
“There are hormonal changes in pregnancy that cause an increase in mucosal swelling throughout the body, including in the nasal passages,” says Paula E. of a nose and throat clinic in Victoria, Texas. “In addition, blood volume increases 40 percent, and with this increase you can get increased airway resistance.”
To learn about nasal obstruction in babies : Why Do Nasal Obstruction in Babies?
The culprit is estrogen, one of the pregnancy hormones that raises during pregnancy. This, along with other hormones, can cause swelling in the mucous membranes lining the nose and cause the body to increase mucous production. Paula points out that this can happen not just with pregnancy but even with people who take hormones or birth control pills. (Pregnancy-related Nasal Decongestion)
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Ruling out Real Conditions
All this is not to say that a stuffy nose with pregnancy is always a completely benign condition. Sometimes it can be bacterial, in which case an antibiotic is needed before it gets any worse. It can also be caused by allergies, and it’s important to rule out what’s causing the allergic reaction.
Obstetrician Marsha W. of Seattle, Washington, says most of her patients assume they have a cold when they come to her with nasal discomfort – and that’s what she prefers. “I don’t want my patients diagnosing themselves and assuming their nasal congestion is always pregnancy-related,” says Marsha. “If they’re suffering from a cold, the beginnings of a sinus infection or allergies, we can rule those things out and maybe give her some relief.”
Marsha says when a patient comes to her complaining of stuffy nose, she first performs a thorough medical exam to rule out bacterial or viral infections. If she can’t find the cause of the stuffy nose and it is severe (for example, it interfered with the patient’s sleep) she then refers her to an ear, nose and throat specialist. The specialist will then determine if the problem is caused by allergies or some other trigger and treat it appropriately.
Also, check our another article about allergies during pregnancy : Allergies During Pregnancy – Expecting to Sneeze
Ways To Relief
It may seem as if a stuffy nose isn’t too big of a deal, but in cases where the woman is already experiencing a great deal of discomfort because of the pregnancy or is having trouble eating or sleeping because of the congestion relief can be important.
The good news is that, usually, relief can be found for pregnancy-specific rhinitis. Wearing nasal strips at night, as Jordan does, has been shown to be effective. Paula generally starts with a very safe approach such as a saline nasal spray. She warns against over-the-counter medicated nasal sprays, which can actually make the problem worse. In fact, there is a type of rhinitis, called rhinitis medicamentosa, which is caused by prolonged or inappropriate use of nasal sprays. Other ideas for nasal congestion relief include: breathing steam from hot water, elevating the head of the bed, avoidance of any known allergens and avoiding cigarette smoke.
Also, check our another article about the harms of smoking during pregnancy : Smoking During Pregnancy: Dangers
If using natural remedies doesn’t’ work, Paula turns to decongestants and antihistamines that have been shown to be safe for pregnant women to take. What she would recommend would be specific to the problem the patient is suffering from. No one should ever attempt to self-medicate by using over the counter medications without their obstetrician’s approval.
Even if you opt to just live with it, take heart – if it started with the pregnancy it will end with the pregnancy. Marsha says she’s rarely seen a case where rhinitis continued much past the first couple of weeks post-partum. Once the hormones start evening out so does everything else.
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The names of the people mentioned in the article have been changed for security reasons and to protect privacy.