Do Some Women Have Extra Phlegm in Pregnancy?

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  • Originally Written By: Megan Kelly
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 03 June 2019
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According to most research, somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of pregnant women will suffer from extra phlegm at some point during their pregnancy. It’s usually most common in the first trimester, and in almost all cases will go away completely soon after labor and delivery. It’s usually caused by hormonal shifts that trigger inflammation in the nasal passageways. Certain medications can sometimes help alleviate the symptoms, but not always, and most healthcare providers recommend home remedies over medical cures in order to avoid unnecessary risks to the developing fetus. The condition isn’t usually anything people should worry about, though it can be disconcerting and uncomfortable.

Basics of Phlegm

Phlegm is basically mucus that occurs in the body’s respiratory system — namely the lungs, the throat, and the sinuses. Some amount of mucus is important, since it’s one of the main ways the body filters out foreign particles like dust and dirt that get breathed in. People often produce more when they’re sick, too, since the sticky substance can help flush out bacteria and other harmful cells. In pregnancy, though, extra phlegm is usually caused by hormone shifts that trigger irritation somewhere along the respiratory tract.


Why It Happens

Pregnancy causes a number of complicated changes to a woman’s body, both physically and neurologically. The sometimes radical shifts and spikes in hormone levels can lead to a number of seemingly unrelated side effects. Extra phlegm is one of these.

As the placenta that protects the fetus develops, a woman’s body typically produces large amounts of estrogen. Estrogen is known to increase production of mucus and can cause mucus to thicken or thin out to varying degrees. It 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 increased phlegm, but in all cases it tends to go away or at least calm once hormone levels are stabilized. This is one of the main reasons that women who experience extra phlegm in pregnancy often have the most intense symptoms in the first trimester, and it rarely lasts for more than about six weeks.

Main Symptoms

Extra phlegm in pregnancy is common enough that it has its own name: “pregnancy rhinitis.” It is not usually considered dangerous to the mother or her developing child, but it can cause uncomfortable symptoms that can affect daily living. The most common of these include persistent coughing, nasal itching, congestion and sneezing. For many women, these symptoms affect quality of sleep more than most other areas of life.

Treatment Options

Pregnancy rhinitis can occur at any time during pregnancy, though symptoms usually go away on their own within two weeks of giving birth without the need of medications. Just the same, not all women want to wait for the arrival of their child in order to find relief. Most medical experts don’t recommend that women take standard nasal decongestants or cold medications during pregnancy because of possible risks and side effects to the developing fetus, and there’s also little evidence that these sorts of medications would actually work since the phlegm isn’t usually caused by anything that can be cured without upsetting hormone levels. Antihistamines, which are commonly used in allergy relief, are sometimes effective in the short term since they reduce inflammation, but any woman considering this would be wise to talk with a healthcare expert first to discuss any possible risks.

Nasal saline irrigation is one of the most common home remedies, and is usually also one of the safest treatment options. The method involves using a saline wash to break down mucus and remove it from the nasal passageways. It can either be injected into the nasal passageways or poured using a special pot or container.

Prevention Ideas

Many women find that they can reduce their symptoms and flare-ups by making a few lifestyle changes. Staying properly hydrated is generally a good idea in pregnancy anyway, and can help relieve phlegm by keeping the respiratory tract moisturized. Dry throat and lung conditions often trigger the production of more mucus, which a person suffering from excess phlegm doesn’t usually want. Avoiding environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke can also help, as can sleeping with the head propped up on a pillow. Regular exercise can also stimulate lung function, which in some cases can slow phlegm production.


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Discuss this Article

Post 4

@Turquoise: Everything you described is me at the moment. Starting from week six and now going on six months pregnant.

Post 3

I have pregnancy rhinits. Saline irrigation and a humidifier are the only things that are helping.

Post 2

@turquoise-- I had extra phlegm during both of my pregnancies! It was always worst during the first trimester and it decreased after that.

I think phlegm and nausea are closely connected. I had a lot of phlegm in my throat during my first trimester and that's when I also had morning sickness. I don't know if the phlegm caused nausea or the nausea caused phlegm, but I always had them together.

Don't be embarrassed about having to spit in a tissue! So many women go through this during pregnancy and I'm sure things will get better for you in a few months. Keep some salt crackers on hand. Salt crackers work great for extra phlegm and nausea.

Post 1

I'm in my first trimester and I have so much saliva! I feel the urge to spit all the time. The worst part is the phlegm makes me nauseated, so if I don't spit it out, I vomit.

It has become impossible for me to go outside and meet people. I feel so embarrassed and I can't get myself to spit in a tissue in front of people. So I avoid going out and sit with a big box of tissue at home.

Has anyone else had excess saliva/phlegm during their pregnancy? Did it get better after a while or did you have it all throughout?

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