For most people, the first sign they have a sinus infection is a headache affecting the front of the face. Pregnancy complicates sinus infection treatment because fewer medications can be used safely. Many naturopathic treatments can provide symptomatic relief. If you suspect you have a sinus infection and you are pregnant, talk with your obstetrician to determine the best course of action.
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Pregnant women are three times more likely to get sinus infections because of the hormonal changes taking place in their bodies. Pregnancy causes increased blood flow to the nasal passages, which may cause congestion. Mucus in the nasal passages and sinus cavities cannot drain freely, and the sinus cavities become clogged. The pooled mucus provides a rich environment for an infective agent—bacteria, virus or fungus—to grow and multiply. Symptoms of a sinus infection include headaches, fatigue, a sensation of pressure and post-nasal drip.
Your obstetrician may prescribe medication for your sinus infection. However, during pregnancy, the potential benefit of using any medication, prescription or over-the-counter, must be weighed against the potential risk. Avoid unnecessary medications, especially during the first trimester, when the majority of fetal development takes place. If you have a sinus infection, your obstetrician may prescribe an antibiotic or a decongestant. Do not take over-the-counter medications without consulting your obstetrician first.
According to the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine may slightly increase the risk of birth defects when used during the first trimester. Pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine are generally considered safe after the first trimester when taken according to directions. OTIS recommends that pregnant women avoid combination medications and instead, take medications that consist solely of pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine if necessary. Avoid over-the-counter decongestant and antihistamine nasal sprays which can cause rebound congestion.
During pregnancy, water is the most frequently used and safest weapon against sinus infections. Adequate water intake keeps pregnant women hydrated and keeps nasal passages functioning optimally. Saline nasal sprays or nose drops should be used several times daily to help loosen mucus; the saline solution may also inhibit bacterial growth. A neti pot safely treats chronic congestion during pregnancy and helps remove mucus. A towel can create a tent over a bowl filled with steaming water, and the pregnant woman can then inhale the vapors; steam can burn, so be cautious with this treatment. A warm, moist wash cloth placed on the face will add humidity and relieve pain. A cool mist humidifier can keep the air in the home humidified.
It is important not to ignore sinus infections during pregnancy because untreated infections can spread. Congestion can also make it difficult for a mother-to-be and her child to get enough oxygen. If home remedies are ineffective, if the pregnant woman has a fever, or if there is a general feeling that something is wrong, the pregnant woman should consult her obstetrician right away.