The Nose Knows - Nose Bleeds, Stuffy Nose and Pregnancy
If you are in your first trimester of pregnancy, you may be wondering about the "cold" you've suddenly come down with, and the occasional nose bleed that you're getting - especially since you can't remember having a nose bleed since you fell off your bike when you were six.
Well, as it turns out, both pregnancy rhinitis (the medical for a stuffy, runny nose) and pregnancy epistaxis (another medical word for nose bleed), are two common pregnancy symptoms. So, why aren't they on the list of most popular pregnancy symptoms, like morning sickness, cravings, and feeling exhausted? Probably because you don't really know it's a pregnancy symptom when it first happens.
Hormones Cause Stuffy Noses and Nose Bleeds in Pregnancy
We can thank hormones for these two gifts of pregnancy - especially estrogen. During pregnancy estrogen (and progesterone) levels rise and, combined with the increased blood flow necessary to nourish the placenta that feeds the baby, causes swelling in the mucus membranes of the nose and respiratory tract. The result is congestion that may well lead to nose bleeds. Another effect of this phenomenon is sensitive or bleeding gums.
Stuffy Nose in Pregnancy can Lead to Sinus Infection
Other conditions common during pregnancy that we don't hear too much about are ear and sinus conditions. Sinus infections may occur up to three times more often during pregnancy than otherwise. About 20 percent of pregnant women experience a runny nose during the second and third trimesters of their pregnancies. The runny nose can shift to a sinus infection relatively quickly in a pregnant woman, so if the evidence of a sinus infection is present, medical help is appropriate. The doctor may prescribe a penicillin drug or Erythromycin to treat a sinus infection during pregnancy. These drugs are considered safe and effective.
Pregnant women may be more susceptible to throat and lung infections that begin with rhinitis. The runny nose is a nuisance and it can lead to further complications so it is a good idea to have it checked early on to make sure the blocked, runny nose is a pregnancy symptom and not anything more serious.
Nose Bleeds in Pregnancy and the Seasons
Pregnancy rhinitis and nose bleed can be exacerbated during the various seasons of the year. In the winter, homes, schools and workplaces that are overheated and under-humidified create a perfect environment for nose bleeds. The dry air can dry out the nasal passages causing cracking and bleeding. Allergy-related rhinitis is predominant in the spring and summer when pollen levels peak.
To prevent pregnancy nose bleeds, use a humidifier year round if you live in a particularly dry climate. Otherwise, run a humidifier during the winter months when heating the house causes the air to be really dry. A saline spray for the nose keeps it the membranes moist and helps to prevent nose bleeds.
When Nose Bleeds in Pregnancy Are Serious
Although it doesn't happen very often, a nose bleed can get out of control. If you have a nose bleed that you have not been able to stop after 20 minutes, you're probably over the limit and should seek medical help. Too much blood loss can make a nose bleed a medical emergency. In the medical profession it is sometimes noted that five milliliters of blood can look like 30. If you're judging the amount of blood loss by what you can see on your maternity top, you may think you need a blood transfusion when really the loss has been very small. However, if you've soaked a towel and blood is gushing, there's a serious problem.
The standard method of stopping a nose bleed is to bend forward, keeping your head above your heart, and pinch your nose at the bridge. This facilitates clotting. If it continues to drip, grab a measuring cup to catch the blood (in case the medics need to know how much blood has been lost). If you have a history of blood disease, this aspect is a major factor. The symptoms of too much blood loss are:
· feeling dizzy or light-headed
· pale skin color
· rapid heartbeat
· chest pain
Any of these symptoms demand an immediate call to the doctor.
Nose bleed in Pregnancy Possibly a Sign of Toxemia
Another possible cause of nose bleed in pregnant women is high blood pressure. This is a very serious issue as it may indicate pre-eclampsia, a dangerous condition in pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is associated with the development of high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Women diagnosed with pre-eclampsia may also have the following symptoms:
· blurred vision
· extreme swelling
· abnormal weight gain
· nose bleeds
The other name for pre-eclampsia is toxemia and it complicates between five and seven percent of all pregnancies. The complications that arise from pre-eclampsia and eclampsia for both mother and baby may account for up to 20 percent of all deaths that occur in pregnant women.
Although nose bleeds are not uncommon in pregnancy, if they have become troublesome to you, visit your healthcare provider for treatment.