During pregnancy, a woman may experience an unusual amount of hayfever-like symptoms; itchy, congested or runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes. This may be ‘Pregnancy Rhinitis’, which is not hayfever, nor is it a contagious bacterial or viral infection.
Rhinitis is an inflammation of the lining of the nose. During pregnancy, the likelihood of experiencing rhinitis is increased by 10% to 30%. This could be because the placenta produces more oestrogen, which can cause the inside of the nose to swell and may increase mucus production. Similarly, the increased blood flow during pregnancy can cause the blood vessels in the lining of the nose to swell, leading to congestion. Other increased hormones might also play a part.
Smoking and passive smoking can exacerbate rhinitis. If you or your partner, co-parent, support person or family member who spends a lot of time with you needs help quitting smoking, consult your GP for support.
Pregnancy rhinitis is most common during the first trimester, but symptoms can linger for six weeks or more. Some people even experience it throughout their entire pregnancy! For those people with chronic pregnancy rhinitis, the good news is it usually clears up within a few weeks after birth.
How to manage pregnancy rhinitis
If you experience environmental allergies, these can worsen pregnancy rhinitis. If you’re aware of your allergen trigger, try to reduce your exposure to these. Some common allergen triggers include animal hair, dust and pollen.
Consult your GP if you are experiencing pregnancy rhinitis symptoms. Symptoms are similar to hayfever, allergies and a head cold, so having a doctor’s diagnosis is helpful.
Your pharmacist or doctor may suggest you try nasal irrigation. This is a drug-free technique that involves flushing saline water through the sinuses to clear allergens and mucus.
Other symptoms like itchy eyes can be handled on a case-by-case basis; always consult your pharmacist or doctor before using any treatments like eye drops or antihistamines.
Will pregnancy rhinitis harm my baby?
No, pregnancy rhinitis will not have a direct effect on your unborn baby. However, if you aren’t sleeping well, you won’t be feeling your best and may struggle more with energy levels during the day. Pregnancy rhinitis symptoms often feel worse at night. You can help yourself get better rest by:
Congestion and stuffiness during pregnancy is just another one of those weird and not-so-wonderful symptoms that doesn’t seem to be talked about as much as other better-known pregnancy signs.
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