Nasal or nose congestion is a common phenomenon during pregnancy and if you are wondering, “What can I take for nasal congestion during pregnancy?”, then you have come to the right place. In this article, we will explain what causes nasal congestion during pregnancy and highlight some remedies you can use to relieve it.
Nasal Congestion and Pregnancy
Nasal congestion and pregnancy are inextricably linked and about 30 percent of mum-to-be women experience this problem even when they don’t have an allergy or viral infections such as common cold.
This condition is usually referred to as pregnancy rhinitis. Besides being stuffed up, pregnant women with pregnancy rhinitis might also get itchy nose and sneeze a lot.
Congestion of the nose tends to start towards the end of the first trimester, particularly in the midst of the second month and may worsen in later stages of the pregnancy. It should however ease up in just a short while after delivery and often gets completely gone within a couple weeks.
So what causes nasal congestion during pregnancy? Well, although it is often caused by sinus infection, viral infections such as common cold and flu, and allergies due to exposure to allergens such as pollen and dust mites, congestion of your nose often happens even without such underlying ailments and conditions.
Nose congestion during pregnancy is attributed to hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and the associated increase in blood supply. Estrogen is the chief culprit. Higher amounts of estrogen that is characteristic of pregnancies can make the mucous membranes that line the nasal passages swollen and dry, with this culminating in a congested nose.
The high amount of blood flowing into the tiny blood vessels in the nasal lining can also make them swollen and soft, which can lead to frequent nosebleeds. Other hormones such as progesterone may also play a role in congestion of your nose.
Now that we have said that nasal congestion and pregnancy are common companions, how do you tell whether the case is simply a result of pregnancy or due to other underlying conditions such as allergies and infections such as sinus infection, common cold and flu?
If a congested nose is not accompanied by other symptoms, it is most likely rhinitis of pregnancy which is not a cause for concern. If you are however experiencing other symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, sore throat, pain or mild aches, fever, or swollen glands, chances are that you a have a bout of common cold or another infection at hand.
Sinus infection is particularly common during pregnancy. If nose congestion is accompanied by symptoms such as decreased sense of smell, fever, headache, green or yellow mucus, upper jaw ache, and most notably, facial pain that may feel worse when your head is bent forward, chances are that you have sinusitis. You should seek the attention of your doctor or caregiver.
If on the other hand the congestion is accompanied by runny nose with watery mucus, sneezing, and itchy nose, eyes, throat or even ears, you could be having an allergy. Allergies affect pregnant women in unpredictable ways. It may either improve in a short while or get worse. Some soon-to-be moms also find that they have suddenly become allergic to allergens that they were not allergic to before.
You might find it tricky to tell exactly what the underlying cause of the nasal congestion is. In some instances, there could be two or more causes. For instance, you could be suffering from rhinitis of pregnancy as well as an allergy.
Nasal Congestion during Early Pregnancy
Congested nose often sets in during early pregnancy especially towards the end of the first trimester (that is the first 3 months of pregnancy). It can start as early as the second month of pregnancy and tends to become more pronounced in the later stages of pregnancy.
As we have already mentioned, nose congestion during early pregnancy or any stage of pregnancy for that matter is typically attributed to the fluctuations in hormonal balances especially an increase in the levels of estrogen and the increase in blood supply which often affects the mucous membranes of the nasal lining, causing them to get inflamed and dry.
The ultimate effect of these is congestion which normally goes away in 2 weeks or so after giving birth.
Severe Nasal Congestion during Pregnancy
A congested nose during pregnancy is a truly annoying experience; it may make you have inadequate sleep. Congested nose could also worsen asthma. Nevertheless, it is something that every woman should be prepared to live with in case it kicks in during pregnancy. Some pregnant might experience more severe nasal congestion during the later stages of pregnancy.
The good thing about it is that it normally clears away on its own once you have delivered. In the meanwhile there are various measures that you can take to ease the congestion which we will be discussing in the next section.
How to Relieve Nasal Congestion during Pregnancy
Here is how to relieve nasal congestion during pregnancy:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Keep your head elevated as you sleep by adding an extra pillow or propping the bed using a small block of wood.
- Inhale some steam from a bowl of hot water with your head covered with a towel. This will temporarily relive nasal congestion. A warm shower is also helpful.
- Use saline nasal drops or sprays: These are available over-the-counter and you can ask your pharmacist to recommend some suitable ones for pregnant mothers. Alternatively, make your own saline solution by dissolving a ¼ tsp of salt and a pinch of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in a cup of water. Pour the solution into your palm and sniff up your nostrils one at a time. NB: Make a fresh saline solution every time.
Nasal congestion and pregnancy – Should you take any medications
If congestion of your nose is bothering you too much and making you miserable, your doctor or pharmacist may prescribe some medications to relieve it.
However, decongestants are not generally advisable for use during pregnancy, unless advised to use them by a medical practitioner. There is however certain nasal sprays and drops that don’t have decongestants which are safe for use during pregnancy. Your doctor may also prescribe some antihistamines.
Notably also, medications are best avoided as much as possible during the first trimester of the pregnancy unless when they are really necessary (say to control conditions such as asthma) and under the advise of a doctor or the caregiver. That is when the baby’s organs are developing.
Nasal Congestion Remedies during Pregnancy
Some helpful nasal congestion remedies during pregnancy that you may want to consider are running a humidifier to add moisture in your room, using a saline nasal drop or solution, elevating your head while sleeping, exercising, inhaling steam or taking a warm shower, and drinking plenty of liquids to keep your body adequately hydrated. In addition to these remedies, you should avoid alcohol and smoking during pregnancy.