Nasal Congestion During Pregnancy: All That You Need to Know

A stuffy nose during the last couple of months of your pregnancy can be quite bothersome. You may worry that you are coming down with some infection that could affect your baby. However, rest assured that nasal congestion during pregnancy is common and affects more women than you may believe. The reason is that pregnancy affects the nasal mucosa, leading to nasal congestion and discomfort.

Here’s all you need to know. 

What Causes Nose Congestion During Pregnancy?

Your mucous membranes, which line the inside of your nose, get inflamed during pregnancy. This results in a stuffy nose and congestion. This is condition is called pregnancy rhinitis. 

The exact cause of nasal congestion is not known but hormonal changes are believed to play an important role in aggravating this condition. Fluctuation in the levels of oestrogen, progesterone, HGH, and PGH hormones can lead to inflamed mucous membranes. 

There are more factors contributing to nasal congestion. Pregnancy is a phase when the blood flow to various parts of your body increases. With this increased blood flow, nasal passages and nasal veins enlarge. This also leads to a stuffy nose during pregnancy. If you have gained excessive weight during pregnancy, you are more likely to develop pregnancy rhinitis too. 

Women who smoke are at higher risk of developing pregnancy rhinitis. Those suffering from long-lasting nasal congestion, even before pregnancy, are more likely to have pregnancy rhinitis.

When Do These Pregnancy Cold Symptoms Develop?

Pregnancy rhinitis is defined as the nasal congestion experienced during the last six weeks of pregnancy. This is usually not accompanied by any other respiratory infection symptoms or allergies. Also, it fades away on its own, within two weeks, after childbirth.  The last six weeks are not the only time when you can develop nasal congestion. Early pregnancy, especially the first month is also a time when some women may experience it. In fact, a stuffy nose could be one of the first-trimester pregnancy symptoms you may experience.

What Are the Symptoms of Congestion While Pregnant? 

If you are experiencing the symptoms of a common cold during early pregnancy or the last six weeks, it could be pregnancy rhinitis. The symptoms are usually similar to that of allergies or hay fever. However, nose congestion in pregnancy is not caused by a pathogen such as bacteria or virus. Also, this condition is not contagious. 

The main symptoms are:

  • Stuffy nose/runny nose 
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Pressure in the sinus region
  • Mucous dripping down the back of your throat (post-nasal drip)
  • Pressure in the ears, blocked ears 
  • Sneezing 
  • Sleep disturbances

These cold symptoms, early pregnancy or later, no matter when you develop them, last six weeks and then subside. Your doctor will rule out other possibilities such as allergies and infections to determine whether this is pregnancy rhinitis.

Will Pregnancy Rhinitis Affect Your Baby?

Pregnancy rhinitis does not affect your unborn baby directly. However, it can disrupt your sleep and prevent you from getting enough rest. Poor breathing during sleep has been linked to several pregnancy complications including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and gestational hypertension. A decline in your overall health can impact your baby too.

Ignoring the condition can lead to ear or sinus infections, which may need strong medications to control. Some medications such as ibuprofen are best avoided during pregnancy.

Addressing Congestion During Pregnancy

Here are some tips for dealing with pregnancy-related nasal congestion. Some of them are home remedies, while others need your doctor’s approval. Do not try any medications without checking with your doctor first:

  • If you are allergic to specific things (dust, animal fur, and pollen) and this is setting off your pregnancy rhinitis, identifying allergens and avoiding them is the first step.
  • To get immediate relief and enjoy a good night’s sleep, rinse out your nasal passage with warm, salty water before bedtime. 
  • Keep yourself hydrated with plenty of fluids such as water, fruit juices, and vegetable juices.
  • Use a humidifier at night to clear your nasal passage. You can also try taking steam to loosen the mucous and clear your sinuses.  
  • Use dilating nasal strips to prevent breathing disruptions during sleep.
  • Keep the head of your bed elevated to make breathing easier when you lie down. Use pillows to prop your head up without straining your neck if your bed is not adjustable. Wedge pillows are a good option for this. 
  • Your doctor may advise medications that are safe to consume during pregnancy. These may be antihistamines or oral decongestants. However, only take these under medical supervision and double-check if they can be taken during pregnancy.
  • With the doctor’s approval, you may be able to find relief with medicated nasal sprays. 

You need not worry about nasal congestion during pregnancy. Taking the right care at the right time will ensure that you and your baby are both perfectly safe. Eat a healthy diet with enough fruits, veggies, nuts, and essential nutrients. Stay fit with the right kind of recommended exercises and implement safe remedies to address your stuffy nose. That’s all you need to pave the way for a happy, healthy, and comfortable pregnancy.