Causes of Pregnancy Rhinitis
Although it is believed that the condition is caused by changing hormone levels during pregnancy, researchers have not yet pinpointed the exact cause of pregnancy rhinitis.
During pregnancy, the placenta produces large amounts of estrogen. Estrogen is known to exacerbate mucus production and may cause mucus to become very thick or very thin. Estrogen also appears to cause the turbinates inside of the nose (small, bony structures that hold the mucosa) to become swollen, which can interfere with proper breathing. Similar rhinitis episodes have been documented in women taking the birth control pill and hormone replacement therapy.
Is Pregnancy Rhinitis Dangerous?
Pregnancy rhinitis is not dangerous for you or baby, however, it can make your life uncomfortable. In particular, pregnancy rhinitis tends to affect quality of sleep, which can make you very tired and fatigued. Pregnancy rhinitis can also increase your chances of developing an ear infection or chronic sinusitis.
Treatment for Pregnancy Rhinitis
Unfortunately, treatment for pregnancy rhinitis is not all that effective. Nevertheless, there are some medications that you can use to relieve your symptoms. Be sure you talk to your health care provider before taking any type of medication during pregnancy.
- Nasal Saline Irrigation: This type of treatment uses a saline wash to help remove mucus from the nasal passageways, improving comfort and breathing. Saline washes also help to lubricate the mucosa in the nostrils, allowing them to work more effectively in the future. All you need to do is flush each nostril out with the saline solution. Sterile saline washes are available at your local pharmacy or drugstore.
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines help to relieve congestion, sneezing, and a runny nose. The antihistamine chlorpheniramine is safe for use during pregnancy, although you may want to discuss its use with your health care provider beforehand just to be on the safe side.
- Oral Decongestants: Oral decongestants were once avoided during pregnancy for fear that they would cause birth defects in baby. Yet, a new study performed in Sweden suggests that oral decongestants are completely safe, and possibly even beneficial, for moms with pregnancy rhinitis. In the study, women who took oral decongestants throughout pregnancy had children with similar birth defect rates as the general population. However, these women also had significantly reduced rates of preterm birth. You may still want to discuss the use of oral decongestants with your doctor first before using them.
Self Care for Pregnancy Rhinitis
The best treatment for pregnancy rhinitis symptoms is often self care. Here are some things that you can do at home to relieve your discomfort:
- Drink lots of fluids, especially water. Avoid caffeinated beverages, as these can be dehydrating.
- Increase the humidity levels in your home. This will prevent your nose from drying out.
- Avoid environmental irritants, like cigarette smoke.
- Sleep with your head propped up on a pillow.
- Exercise in moderation. Easy exercise can actually help to reduce nasal congestion.
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