A stuffy nose and congestion during pregnancy is fairly common. About 20 to 30 percent of pregnant women have congestion without having allergies or a cold. The condition is called rhinitis of pregnancy.
Incidence and Cause
Many pregnant women get this condition as early as the second month of pregnancy. For some it lasts until the baby is born or even a few weeks after. It is most common during the second trimester.
Rhinitis of pregnancy is caused by an increase in progesterone levels. Higher projesterone can cause a swelling in the mucous membranes that line the nose. Additionally, the amount of blood in the body increases which can also cause blood vessles to expand. All this can lead to congestion in the nose.
Often women who get it have no history of allergies or sinus issues. However, it is helpful to take precautions to minimize exposure to potential allergens as this will make the rhinitis worse.
While taking prescription decongestants or nasal sprays may be fairly effective, they are not fully approved for pregnancy. If you are suffering from a serious case of congestion, check with your doctor before taking any pills.
In the meantime, here are some non-invasive and safe things you can do to help the congestion:
- Try "Breathe Right" strips. These are strips that you put on your nose at night to help create more space in the nasal passage. They are totally safe for mother and fetus and some find them to be quite effective. Be sure to get the right size for your nose as proper placement is critical. Also, if you end up using them every night, opt for the clear version as it is easier on the skin with frequent use.
- Use a Neti Pot. Use a neti pot or (or SinuCleanse) to wash out the nasal passages in the morning and at night. This is an effective and natural way to clean out and calm the nasal membranes. Using a neti pot can feel very uncomfortable at first; try to stick with it, it gets easier.
- Get an airpurifier or HEPA filter for the bedroom. Even though the pregnancy is causing swelling in the membranes, it is helpful to eliminate other possible irritants such as dust or pollens. Given that most hours of the day are spent in the bedroom, it is important to keep this air as clean as possible. Some find this to be so beneficial that continue to use the purifier post pregnancy.
- Keep the bedroom clean. It is important make sure that the bedroom is as clean as possible- free of dust, pollens and other potential irritants. Have someone (other than yourself) thoroughly clean around and under the bed, under drawers, in the closet, etc.
- Elevate your head while sleeping. It is helpful to elevate the head while sleeping as it minimzes extra pressure and fluid moving into the nasal and sinus membranes. You can do this by sleeping on extra pillows. Remember to create a gradual slant for your shoulders, neck and head so that you are not closing off your airway with a crooked neck. If this is not comfortable for you, raise the front of the bed by placing a 3"-6" block underneath the front two legs of the bed.
- Try dust mite covers. Condsider getting dust mite covers for your pillows, mattress and duvet. If you are allergic to dust mites (as many people are) it will help to eliminate the congestion that these cause while you are sleeping.
- Cut down on scented products. Eliminate using scented candles, sprays, and other products. Even though you may be able to tolerate scented products while you are not pregnant, they may bother you while you are pregnant. Try eliminating them and see if this improves your condition.