Yes, growing a new human inside you is a miracle, one of life’s wonders.
Something to cherish, and we men envy this about you.
You – woman – are amazing!
But, we don’t envy the physiological toll that pregnancy collects from you women – pregnancy, for all of its beauty, can be physically grueling.
Less Space for Everything Else
We are all familiar with the challenges that the growing fetus places on ever-smaller room in mommy’s body – less room for your bladder to expand makes for ever more frequent restroom visits; compression of veins causes venous congestion, and swollen ankles; extra weight in the front causes aches in the back, etc.
Oddly, one of the symptoms of pregnancy that we seldom hear about is one of the most common: nasal congestion.
Perhaps we don’t hear about it because women are too tough to complain about one more symptom. I know that if men were experiencing this, we would ALL hear about it. Me? I’m an absolute baby when I have a cold.
Perhaps because they think that complaining about a simple stuffy nose would seem petty or trivial compared to the miracle of growing a little person inside of them.
However, I can tell you, from watching pregnant friends try to cope with complete nasal obstruction for month after month during their pregnancies, it can be miserable.
Pregnancy Rhinitis: What is it?
Pregnancy Rhinitis refers to the uncomfortable condition of severe nasal congestion – a stuffy nose – that troubles many women during pregnancy. It may affect more than 30% of women during pregnancy!
It can occur at any time during pregnancy, but most commonly begins during the first trimester. It can last for the entire pregnancy!
And it can be absolutely miserable. Imagine living with nasal congestion, or even complete obstruction, making it impossible to breathe through your nose (like your worst “cold”), for 24 hours per day for months!
What causes Pregnancy Rhinitis?
Hormonal changes during pregnancy cause swelling of the lining of the nose, resulting in congestion. When it is severe enough, it can cause complete nasal obstruction.
The result is similar to the effect of a bad “cold”. Occasionally Pregnancy Rhinitis includes over-production of secretions (mucus) and a resulting runny nose (Rhinorrhea) to accompany the misery of congestion.
What are the Symptoms?
Not all women have all these symptoms, but overall, the effects are usually similar to Allergic Rhinitis or Sinusitis, or a bad “cold”:
- Nasal congestion
- Sneezing, coughing
- Rhinorrhea (runny nose)
- Facial pressure, sinus congestion
What Can You Do About It?
Treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms.
Some options include:
- Nasal decongestants. If you are pregnant, you should discuss any medications, including over the counter (OTC) medications, with your physician before taking. Some OB/Gyn physicians believe that decongestants are okay during pregnancy; others do not. Ask yours.
- Antihistamines. Many of the symptoms of Pregnancy Rhinitis may be caused by, or at least made worse by, the release of histamines – similar to allergic rhinitis. Antihistamines can help control severe symptoms. As noted above, use of any medications during your pregnancy should be discussed with your physician. First-generation antihistamines have been deemed safe during pregnancy and lactation.
- The best option to help reduce the swelling of the lining of the nose is nasal saline rinsing. Many people have recently been discovering the benefits of the neti pot for nasal rinsing, and there are even easier ways to rinse the nose with salt water. Whatever the method used, saline nasal rinsing can help a woman with Pregnancy Rhinitis to maintain an open nasal airway and help reduce the runny-nose symptom. The use of nasal saline rinsing is completely safe during pregnancy.
What Else Can You Do?
Here are some general tips to help keep you breathing through your nose during your Pregnancy Rhinitis:
- Elevate the head of your bed to help reduce nasal congestion, and the sense of facial pressure and fullness.
- Non-impact, moderate exercise will help you optimize overall health during pregnancy, but will also help reduce nasal congestion and rhinitis symptoms. Discuss any exercise program during pregnancy with your physician.
- Use a steam-vaporizer humidifier in your bedroom at night for healthy level of humidity. Be sure to turn it off during the day and open up the room to air out to avoid possible mold problems.
- A steamy shower may help clear your nose – just like when you have a cold.
- Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids.
- Get plenty of sleep to maintain a healthy immune system, not to mention to help you grow that healthy little human inside you!
- Don’t even THINK about smoking. Avoid smoke and other irritants.
The lining of your nose may be particularly sensitive to irritants during your pregnancy.
This might also be a good time to eliminate toxins from your household. For your nose, and for that little person growing inside you.
That means you should minimize your exposure to chemical irritants (like chlorinated water at the pool), or particulate irritants in your home (minimize use of the wood-burning stove), or inevitable irritants like the ubiquitous dust mites (put away the stuffed toys).
Following these tips should help you reduce the symptoms of your Pregnancy Rhinitis. And, congratulations! We’re all envious of your miracle.