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Pregnancy carries a plethora of symptoms such as strange cravings, a frequent need to urinate and nausea. Another common symptom is an excess production of mucus that causes nasal congestion, coughing and extra phlegm. This can cause a pregnant woman to sneeze and cough more than usual. The condition of having extra mucus and phlegm in pregnancy is called pregnancy rhinitis. This condition can negatively affect quality of life for those who suffer from it, causing difficulty sleeping, uncomfortable breathing and day-to-day functioning. It is estimated that 20-30 percent of pregnant women suffer from extra phlegm in pregnancy.
Similar to allergic rhinitis, pregnancy rhinitis has not been shown to be caused by environmental allergen or toxins. It occurs when nasal passageways become inflamed and irritated, which causes nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose and excess phlegm. Extra phlegm in pregnancy occurs most frequently in the first trimester and can last as long as six weeks. Although pregnancy rhinitis can occur at any time during pregnancy, symptoms usually dissolve within two weeks of labor and delivery without the need of medications.
It is believed that extra phlegm in pregnancy is the product of changing hormonal levels. As the placenta that protects the fetus develops, large amounts of estrogen are produced in the body. Estrogen is shown to increase production of mucus and can cause mucus to thicken or thin out to varying degrees. Estrogen is also thought to cause inflammation in the bony structures that hold mucosa inside the nose, which can lead to breathing problems. Women who are taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy might experience similar episodes of rhinitis.
Although extra phlegm in pregnancy is not dangerous to the mother or her developing child, it can cause uncomfortable symptoms that can affect daily living. The most common symptoms include persistent coughing, nasal itching, congestion and sneezing. These symptoms affect quality of sleep more than other areas of life.
Women who experience pregnancy rhinitis can relieve symptoms with a nasal saline irrigation, antihistamines and oral decongestants. Nasal saline irrigation uses a saline wash to break down mucus and remove it from the nasal passageways. Antihistamines relive congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, improving breathing quality and reducing phlegm. Oral decongestants have been shown to help relieve symptoms of pregnancy rhinitis without causing harm to the unborn child. Women who are considering over-the-counter rhinitis treatments should consult with a physician before taking any medications.
Symptoms of pregnancy rhinitis can also be treated through self-care. Women who experience troublesome symptoms should stay properly hydrated. They also should avoid environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke, sleep with their head propped up on a pillow and exercise moderately.