For some of us, those nine months of pregnancy are a breeze. No vomiting, no nausea, no unbearable smells or weird cravings – pickles in the middle of the night anyone? For others though, it’s a matter of checking all the possible symptoms, from pregnancy hot flashes to pregnancy vertigo. There are women who go through every pregnancy symptom known to mankind and those nine months couldn’t come sooner. One of them which is not too much talked about, but is annoying anyway, is pregnancy rhinitis or rhinitis of pregnancy.
WHAT DOES RHINITIS OF PREGNANCY MEAN?
Is your nose runny or stuffy? Do you have an uncomfortable sensation because of it? This is rhinitis of pregnancy in a nutshell. It’s this pesky nasal condition which doesn’t have any particular cause, except from the fact that you are pregnant. It usually starts during the first pregnancy trimester, although it can kick in at any time, lasting for the whole pregnancy and even a few weeks more after childbirth.
The reason for this is the high level of estrogen and the blood flow in your body during pregnancy. These two cause the mucus membrane to swell, therefore giving you the feeling of a runny nose, which produces extra mucus. The nose and its passageways are probably the most vital body part, because apart from allowing you to breath, you are safe from irritants or other toxins, like pollen or dust, which are stopped in their tracks by the mucus. The mucus membranes are called mucosa, which secret it all the way through the nostrils and sometimes it even goes down the back of your throat. But sometimes, the nasal mucus is produced way too much, due to the membrane getting irritated. It can either be thick, causing nasal congestion or very, very thin, which leads to a stuffy nose – and that’s exactly what rhinitis of pregnancy is.
IS RHINITIS OF PREGNANCY COMMON?
Actually, yes. Up to 30 percent of mommies-to-be suffer from it, without being related to other illnesses like a cold or an allergy. The soonest it can start is the second month of the pregnancy and as your pregnancy progresses, the rhinitis might get worse. The good news is that even if you might get extremely annoyed by still suffering from it despite giving birth, it will be completely gone within two weeks. This all comes down to the level of severity. The reason why rhinitis is more common at the start of your pregnancy is because the hormone and progesterone levels are rapidly increasing, unlike the second and third trimester.
HOW CAN I TELL IF IT’S RHINITIS OF PREGNANCY OR SOMETHING ELSE?
If your stuffy nose comes with no other symptom, it’s probably just that. However, if you also experience common sinusitis symptoms, like fever, decreased sense of smell, aches, sneezing, sore throat or severe coughing, you might suffer from another infection or a cold and calling your caregiver would be advisable. If your runny nose features watery mucus and eyes, with itchy throat, ears, nose or eyes, you are probably suffering from an allergy. Allergies during pregnancy are even more bothersome than they normally are, because they might actually worsen or you might even find that you are allergic to things you weren’t allergic before.
However, you can’t always tell what the nature of your congestion is, since it can either be an infection, an allergy or rhinitis of pregnancy. As always, to clear any doubts, talk to your doctor to know exactly what’s causing it.
WHAT ARE THE RHINITIS OF PREGNANCY SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms might vary from person to person, but some of the most common ones are:
- Stuffy and itchy nose
- Sneezing and coughing
HOW CAN I TREAT IT?
The rhinitis of pregnancy treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but some of the most popular ones are:
- Drinking lots of fluids
- Steam helps relieve it – not to mention that a warm shower is particularly soothing and you get a pleasant feeling by hanging out in the steamy bathroom. If you don’t feel like taking a hot shower, you can also try moistening a cloth with hot water, holding it up to your face and breathing in and out
- Nasal sprays or saline nose drops are also highly recommended. After a couple of drips into your nostrils, you will feel relieved after 5-10 minutes and able to breathe easily
- A humidifier helps moisture the air. Keeping it near you at night will make the congestion more bearable. However, don’t forget to change the water daily to avoid any bacteria and also change the filter regularly, so that you won’t end up suffering from more complications
- Sleeping on extra pillows which raise your head to change your posture at night also proved to be helpful
- Exercising also helps reliving the stuffy nose. However, make sure that you don’t do too many activities outdoors, especially not when the air is humid or polluted, since you might up irritating you nasal passages even more
- Avoid cigarettes, paint and chemical fumes and alcohol – obviously. I am guessing that you are already avoiding them by being pregnant in first place, but this is just to make sure.
CAN I TAKE ANY MEDICATIONS?
As always, since it’s a delicate issue and your pregnancy is your priority no matter what, don’t take any kind of medication before discussing with your doctor about it. Remember that pregnancy totally changes what’s happening inside your body and the medication you saw as safe pre-pregnancy might be completely different when you’re expecting. Hey, you even thought that coffee was harmless, yet you need to take your precautions with caffeine during pregnancy. This being said, here are the most common ones for rhinitis of pregnancy:
- It was believed in the past that those oral decongestants might pose dangers for pregnant women, however studies in recent times showed that there is no reason to worry. Nonetheless, let your OB/GYN guide you in regards to what to use and avoid overusing them, because they might end up causing even more inflammation.
- Antihistamines are sometimes prescribed, but, again, discuss with your doctor beforehand.
- Saline drops are safe to use and easy to get or even to make yourself to relieve the nasal congestion.
If your rhinitis of pregnancy is making life a nightmare, medications should be taken into consideration, even though many times it’s simply enough to just do small adjustments to your lifestyle. Make sure you know exactly what medications are safe for you and your baby and, as much as possible, try to avoid taking any during the first trimester, when your baby’s organs start to shape up, unless you really really have to take them and they have been prescribed to you.
SHOULD YOU WORRY ABOUT RHINITIS OF PREGNANCY?
Apart from the uncomfortable factor, rhinitis in pregnancy is not dangerous for you or for your baby. Actually, most of the time, even if you experience a lot of pregnancy symptoms, in reality your baby is just doing fine and it’s just you who can’t wait to see those nine months end. Rhinitis in pregnancy can affect your sleep, by making you fatigued, not to mention that you might end up waking up multiple times during the night because of difficulties in breathing. Rhinitis might also lead to chronic sinusitis or ear infections, so do try keeping in control with other treatments which don’t necessarily involve medications. Make sure that you and your doctor rule out other illnesses before starting to treat the rhinitis in pregnancy. Remember that rhinitis due to pregnancy is not the same as usual rhinitis which happens outside the pregnancy or sinusitis. Again – and I can’t stress this enough – make sure that whatever decision or treatment you follow, you discuss it with your doctor first, so that it’s 100% safe for you. There are herbs you should avoid or even vitamins which should be taken in smaller doses than usual (Vitamin A, for instance).
How was your pregnancy? Did you have to use lots of tissues?
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