Vomiting, nausea, fatigue, and heartburn are some of the symptoms you might expect to happen early in your pregnancy. But there is one pregnancy symptom which you might not have been told about called pregnancy congestion, also known as pregnancy rhinitis. This condition affects 18-24% of all pregnant women, and can occur anytime while pregnant. Did I tell you the best part? It tends to last for 6 or more weeks and most pregnant women find it ridiculously irritating during the second and third trimester. The good news is that pregnancy congestion goes away a few weeks after you give birth, usually within 2 weeks postpartum when your fluid levels return to normal. Don't have time to read this incredible pregnancy blog? That's okay, just listen to the podcast version Pregnancy Pukeology Podcast episode 53: Pregnancy Congestion.
This condition is caused by hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Your estrogen levels increase you get pregnant. According to Baby Center, high estrogen levels cause the mucus membrane (lining of the nasal passage) to swell and produce more mucus. Pregnancy also increases blood flow to mucus membrane to swelling of your nasal passage. This causes nasal stuffiness.
Your body also has to prepare for child birth which the average blood loss is 500mL to 1 liter, so your body compensates by producing about 500mL more throughout your pregnancy. When their is more fluid, hence the beautiful ca-kles (when calves and ankles seem to merge due to extreme swelling) in your last trimester of pregnancy.
What are the Symptoms of Pregnancy Congestion?
When pregnancy is the only cause of your nasal congestion the symptoms you might experience are often mild. These include:
Difficulty sleep as you will find it hard to breathe
Although rare, it can happen especially when you blow your nose a lot. Another fun fact is that although your body is producing 500mL to a liter more fluids in your body to prepare for birth, your platelets will decrease meaning you have a tendency to bleed more hence the nose bleeds.
Other possible cause of congestion such as allergies that affects about a third of women of reproductive age cause more severe symptoms. They include:
Itching, especially around the eyes and behind the throat
Severe nasal obstruction
Can Pregnancy Congestion Lead to Headaches?
Pregnancy may cause sinus congestion that can lead to sinus headaches. The headaches tend to last days or even longer and get worse when you bend forward. Sinus headaches are easily confused with migraines please consult your health professional if you get frequent throbbing headache that gets worse with noise or bright light. Want to find out how to stop a headache or migraine during pregnancy? Check out Episode 8 of Pregnancy Pukeology Podcast, How to Cure a Migraine While Pregnant.
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What Can I Take for Congestion While Pregnant?
You can ease your pregnancy congestion if you:
Drink adequate fluids. 6 to 8 glasses of fluids (water) daily can help thin your mucus.
Stay in a moisturize room. Use a humidifier to keep the air moist.
Have a warm bath or shower.
Mind your sleeping position. Use an extra pillow to elevate your head. This helps prevent mucus from blocking your air passage.
Say no to nasal sprays. This might worsen your pregnancy congestion. Only use sprays when prescribed by a healthcare provider.
Apply a washcloth to your face. Ensure it is warm and wet.
Are Decongestants Safe During Pregnancy?
While it is common to think of buying a decongestant when you have a sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, or a sinus headache, they are not safe during pregnancy. According to recent studies, decongestants increase the risk for some rare birth defects, especially when used in the first trimester.
You should avoid even the over-the-counter decongestants such as Sudafed, Dristan, and Mucinex which contain phenylephedrine and pseudoephedrine. This because they have been found to cause birth defects of the gut, ear, and heart. Although the chances of your baby having a birth defect are very rare if you take a decongestant, it is important not to put your unborn baby at risk by avoiding decongestant. Instead, use natural remedies to cure your pregnancy congestion.