Do you have a stuffy nose that doesn’t seem to go away? You’re not alone. Many women experience a stuffy nose during pregnancy, which can be aggravating. There’s a name for this hassle, and it’s called pregnancy rhinitis.
The cause isn’t clear, but the typical hormonal changes that pregnancy brings may be to blame. Higher estrogen and progesterone levels in your body bring increased blood flow to the mucous membranes in your nose, making them soften and swell. This can cause congestion and even nosebleeds.
Research suggests that around 39% of pregnant women experience nasal congestion and other rhinitis symptoms. However, having a history of allergies or asthma doesn’t increase your risk of developing pregnancy rhinitis.
Keep reading to discover common issues surrounding pregnancy-related nasal congestion, and 10 ways you can get relief!
Treating Your Stuffy Nose During Pregnancy
Your stuffiness may worsen before it gets better—which won’t be until after you deliver. You may also experience sinus congestion and a postnasal drip, leading to nighttime coughing. Here are 10 ways you can treat your congestion during pregnancy:
- Use a sinus rinse with saline (salt) like this one by NeilMed, which is considered safe to use throughout pregnancy and can be very effective.
- Lubricate each nostril with a small dab of petroleum jelly, applied with a cotton swab.
- Be careful when blowing your nose, as sometimes a nosebleed can follow an overly energetic nose-blowing. The correct way to blow your nose is to first gently close one nostril with your thumb, then carefully blow out the opposite side. Repeat with the other nostril, continuing to switch until you can breathe through your nose.
- During the night, you can put on nasal strips (like these Breathe Right ones with a calming lavender scent) to help decrease stuffiness.
- If your doctor approves, you might take an extra 250 mg of vitamin C to strengthen your capillaries and reduce your risk of bleeding.
- Try a saline nose spray and apply a bit of Vicks VapoRub to your nostrils.
- Sleep with an extra pillow under your head to keep it raised.
- Try taking a warm shower to get the benefits of the steam, which will temporarily make congestion less severe. It can also be very relaxing and soothe your aching muscles!
- Or, get the benefits of steam by running a washcloth under the faucet while the water is hot, then hold it up to your face, and breathe deeply.
- If it’s wintertime, set up a humidifier in your home. Your heater forces hot, dry air into your house, drying your nasal passages and causing congestion.
Allergies During Pregnancy
If you’ve felt like your allergies have worsened during your pregnancy, you might be mistaking them for typical pregnancy-related nasal stuffiness. Or, pregnancy might have made your allergies worse.
Check with your doctor to see what you can safely use to relieve your symptoms. Some antihistamines and other medications are safe for use during pregnancy. However, the best way to handle allergies during pregnancy is through prevention. If outdoor allergens bother you, stay indoors as much as possible in an air-conditioned and air-filtered environment.
Wash your hands and face once you come inside, and wear oversized, curved sunglasses to keep pollen from your eyes. If you’re allergic to dust, you can ask someone else to vacuum and sweep. Stay away from attics and libraries full of old, dusty, and musty books.
If you’re allergic to animals, let your friends know ahead of time so they can rid a room of pets and their dander before you come over. If it’s your pet that’s aggravating your allergies, keep one or more areas in your home (especially your bedroom) pet-free.
Is it a Cold?
If you start to feel very tired, have a runny nose, and a sore throat, rest. If you can sleep in an extra hour each morning, do it! That is when the body most efficiently uses resources. A great way to rest in the afternoon or evening is to find a great book or movie to get lost in.
Most medications can’t make a cold go away faster, but here are some extra steps you can take to ease your symptoms:
- If you have a stuffy nose, try steam inhalation. Put a towel over your head and lean over a pot or bowl of hot water with two or three drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil in it. Breathe in and out deeply and slowly.
- If you have a sore throat, drink hot water with lemon and honey in it. Rinse your mouth with warm salt water three times a day.
- Increase how much vitamin C you get. Those little drink packets can really help because they give you both fluids and minerals.
Treating Asthma Attacks
Many people with asthma also have long-term issues with their nose and sinuses. These issues can include rhinitis, which is inflammation or swelling of the tissues in the nose.
Most pregnant women with asthma have a safe pregnancy, labor, and delivery. If you experienced severe asthma attacks before you got pregnant, you may have severe attacks during pregnancy. In general, the treatment plan your doctor had you on before you got pregnant should continue to help. This would include medications prescribed for asthma before or during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, oxygen use increases by about 25% because your baby needs that oxygen to grow and develop. Asthma treatment is important while you’re pregnant. According to the American Lung Association, there are many effective asthma medications you can safely take while pregnant. When it’s time to deliver your baby, it will be important to have asthma medication with you. We suggest discussing asthma in advance with your healthcare provider and adding it to your birth plan.
If you’ve just started snoring and usually don’t, try not to panic. It may just be because of typical pregnancy stuffiness. Try sleeping with a humidifier on and keep your head well-elevated.
According to this study, 7.9% of women snored in their first trimester, which increased to 21.2% of women by their third trimester. While snoring might seem like just another annoying side effect of pregnancy, it can actually put you at risk for complications, like slowed fetal growth.
Snoring could also be a sign of sleep apnea, where breathing stops briefly during sleep. This temporarily reduces the amount of oxygen you intake. Since a constant flow of oxygen is essential when breathing for two, it’s a good idea for pregnant women who snore to be monitored for sleep apnea.
Unfortunate side effects of pregnancy, like weight gain, hormonal changes, and fluid retention, give you a higher risk for both sleep apnea and snoring. If you’re unsure you have sleep apnea, daytime sleepiness is a major sign. Both snoring and sleep apnea will keep waking you up from a deep sleep, leaving you exhausted.
Make sure to ask your OB-GYN about sleep apnea at your next visit.
Treating a Stuffy Nose During Pregnancy
If your stuffy nose becomes too much to take, taking an over-the-counter antihistamine med may help. Two that seem to be considered safe for pregnancy are Loratadine (name brand: Claritin) and Diphenhydramine (Benadryl). But as always, make sure to ask your doctor before taking any medication.
The good news is that your stuffy nose should get better soon after you give birth and be gone within a couple of weeks after you give birth.
If you’ve been worried about whether you’re ready to be a mom, that’s normal. Plenty of women don’t feel ready for the responsibilities of motherhood whether it’s because their baby’s father has left, they can’t afford to raise another child, or they can’t provide their child the type of life they wish to. And sometimes adoption can be the right decision when you’re in situations like these.
With today’s modern adoptions, you decide who adopts your baby, what happens at the hospital, and future contact with your child. If you’d like to learn more about modern adoption, text or call Lifetime Adoption at 1-800-923-6784 or visit LifetimeAdoption.com. Lifetime has been helping women nationwide with their adoption options since 1986, and they have caring coordinators ready to help and support you every step of the way.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 5, 2013, and has since been updated.