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What is the Connection Between Nasal Congestion and Pregnancy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2016
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Nasal congestion and pregnancy commonly go hand and hand, particularly in the first trimester. Many woman are surprised to learn this when they ask their care providers about why they feel stuffed up all the time. There are a number of methods for dealing with nasal congestion and pregnancy and most women can achieve congestion relief to make themselves feel more comfortable. Once the baby is born, the pregnancy rhinitis, as it is known, should resolve very quickly.

There are several reasons nasal congestion and pregnancy tend to be linked. When women get pregnant, the blood volume increases and the blood vessels expand, leading to swelling of tissues inside and outside the body. Many women are familiar with pregnancy swelling in the hands and feet, and it also occurs inside the nose. The flood of estrogen also leads to more mucus production inside the nose. The combination of more mucus and less room in the nose leads to a stuffy nose and discomfort.

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Women may notice that their noses run more in pregnancy, and they can feel stuffy and clogged. Blowing the nose regularly to flush out mucus is recommended and some patients find saline irrigation of the nose helpful for managing nasal congestion and pregnancy. The irrigation will flush out mucus as well as soothing irritated and inflamed nasal tissues and the percentage of saline can be adjusted for comfort if women find that a nasal flush leaves the nose with a stinging or painful feeling.

Antihistamines safe for use in pregnancy can be taken to bring down the swelling and some patients also take decongestants. Women may also find it helpful to drink lots of hot fluids and eat hot soup, loosening the mucus and making it easier to flush out of the nose. As hormone levels start to stabilize, the worst of the nasal congestion should begin to resolve and women should feel more comfortable as the pregnancy progresses.

One concern with nasal congestion and pregnancy is the risk that women will inhale mucus and develop lung infections. Women should clear their noses regularly, carrying tissues or a handkerchief to address occasional snotty flareups and keep the airways clear. If symptoms like difficulty breathing, wheezing, crackling or bubbling sounds when breathing, and heavy coughing are observed, a doctor can perform an evaluation to check for problems with the lungs and may prescribe appropriate medications to manage the issue.

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