Pregnancy Rhinitis: Stuffy Nose And Sneezing While Pregnant

By Wendy Innes. May 7th 2016

As if all the aches and pains of pregnancy wasn't enough, there are often a number of other less than pleasant symptoms associated with being an expectant mother. Up to 30 percent of women experience an increase in congestion, sniffling and sneezing. This condition is referred to as pregnancy rhinitis, and while it won't harm Mom or the baby, it is irritating and can last for the entire pregnancy, and even after birth. The biggest concern associated with pregnancy rhinitis is not the congestion and other symptoms, but the treatment the mother uses.

What is it?

Pregnancy rhinitis is the technical name for the sniffling, sneezing and stuffy nose that many women experience during pregnancy. It is a type of allergic rhinitis, but don't worry, it doesn't mean that the mother is allergic to her baby or anything silly. It just means that pregnancy has made Mom more sensitive to the world around her. Though they can vary in severity, the most common symptoms are:

Why does it happen?

Many women who suffer from pregnancy rhinitis do not regularly suffer from allergies, so they wonder why it is that they suddenly are sniffling and sneezing. There are some very good reasons for this.

  • The first is the increase blood volume that occurs in pregnancy. Because of this tiny blood vessels in the nose can become swollen causing the congestion and sniffling associated with pregnancy rhinitis.
  • Those pesky pregnancy hormones are also at work here. The same hormones that support the pregnancy cause an increase in mucus production in mucous membranes, such as those that line the nose, and also contribute to swelling.
  • If mom had allergies previously, then it's possible that they will get worse during the pregnancy. So if she is exposed to an allergen, the associated sneezing and congestion may be worse than normal.

Natural Treatments

Perhaps the simplest natural remedy for pregnancy rhinitis is just to avoid allergens. Have Daddy keep the house free of mold, dust and animal dander. Mom should also steer clear of harsh chemical cleaners. If Dad can't do it, then switch to all natural cleaners. Sometimes the chemicals and perfumes in cleaning products can irritate mom's already over sensitive nose as well.

Another great natural treatment that can provide much relief is a neti pot. A neti pot is used to irrigate nasal passages. This is great if mom is having problems with dryness and swelling. It may seem awkward to use at first, but after mom gets used to it, it's quite soothing and has no affect on the baby. Just be careful to follow the instructions carefully.

Humidifiers and vaporizers are also helpful, especially in dry climates. Often in desert climates, or in the winter when the heat is on, the air in a home can become dry, irritating sinuses. Whether to use warm or cool mist is really a matter of personal preference and which works better for each person.

Ice can be helpful as well, particularly with congestion and headaches. Ice helps reduce swelling in the sinuses that causes the congestion and headaches, and what better excuse for mom to kick back on the couch with her feet up.

Medical Treatments

While it's true that pregnant women have to stop taking many medications, there are some that are safe, in most cases. Mom just needs to check with her doctor before taking anything.

Nasal decongestant sprays are safe to use during pregnancy because they aren't ingested and don't cross the placenta. These are quick and easy, but they come with a drawback. Often after continued use, congestion will come back faster and more severe than when it originally started. If mom does decide to use a nasal spray, she should start with ¼ to ½ the suggested dose. This will help minimize any rebound problems later.

Over-the-counter decongestants are generally fine, but again, mom should check with her doctor. Also if headaches and swelling are a problem, mom can take Tylenol, but should steer clear of any other pain relievers. The reason is that any other pain relievers can lead to bleeding and clotting problems in both mom and the baby. If mom does choose to take any over-the-counter medications she needs to watch the dosing carefully to avoid overdose. If problems persist, her doctor can prescribe something that is baby safe.

Other Possible Problems

While pregnancy rhinitis is quite common, so are things like the common cold and sinus infections. If mom experiences any other symptoms, such as cough, fever, chills, discolored mucus or bleeding, chances are she has something more than just pregnancy rhinitis and she needs to see a doctor to avoid any complications that an infection may cause.

Pregnancy takes a huge toll on the mother's body. It's hard work to make the millions of cells in a beautiful new baby, so it isn't uncommon for her to catch a bug and have a hard time fighting it off. But if she doesn't have any symptoms other than those listed above, chances are it's just one of the side effects of pregnancy. And while it can be bothersome, in the end it's all worth it.


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