It is best to avoid over-the-counter medications during pregnancy. The list of what is considered safe constantly changes, making it difficult for a woman to choose the best way to treat her congestion. While you are pregnant, limit your exposure to friends, family and co-workers who may have active viral infections. Also, limiting exposure to seasonal allergens that may trigger allergy-related congestion will cut down on the need for medication. Occasionally, expectant mothers do find that it is necessary to take medication for the relief of sinus congestion. Consulting your physician or midwife is vital to ensure that the medications you are using are safe for both you and your baby.
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Pseudoephedrine, or Sudafed, is a nasal decongestant. It relieves nasal congestion caused by colds or allergies. It works by constricting the flow of blood to the nasal passages. Sudafed will temporarily relieve congestion, but it does not treat the cause or reduce the amount of time a viral infection is present. Due to the fact that this medication works by restricting blood flow, it is suggested that this medication be avoided during the first trimester, and it should never be taken without consulting your physician or midwife. Pseudoephedrine is a category C drug, which means it is not known to cause harm to unborn fetuses, but its effects have not been studied on animals or humans.
Loratadine, or Claritin, is usually considered safe to take during pregnancy. It is an antihistamine that treats allergy-related congestion and sneezing. Though it will not prevent an allergic reaction to allergens such as pollen, it will reduce your reaction to them. It is a category B drug, so while it has shown no harmful effects in animal studies, it has not been tested on humans.
Spray Nasal Decongestant
Saline-only nasal sprays are considered safe during pregnancy. Topical or nasal spray decongestants, such as Afrin, were once thought to be safe for most pregnant women. However, these too work by constricting blood flow to the sinuses, and it is now thought that it can be absorbed systemically. Due to the risk of rebound congestion, a condition caused by the overuse of spray decongestants, even patients who are not pregnant should limit their exposure to these decongestants.
Alternatives to Medication
One of the best drug-free ways to keep nasal passages clear is by the use of steam. Humidifiers and short, warm showers can ease congestion without the worry of harmful drugs entering the fetal blood supply. Nasal strips also help expand airways to keep air flowing. Be cautious not to over-blow your nose, which can increase sinus inflammation and inner ear pressure, too. Increase your intake of fluids to 12 glasses per day, get plenty of rest and call your obstetrician or midwife before taking any over-the-counter medications.