Swollen feet and nausea are well-known symptoms of pregnancy, but a chronic stuffy nose could plague you, too, especially in the last trimester. This condition, known as rhinitis of pregnancy, can be treated at home safely, but consult with your obstetrician before trying a new medicine, herbal remedy or exercise.
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Rhinitis of Pregnancy
Up to 30 percent of pregnant women suffer from extreme nasal congestion, which often begins in the second trimester and worsens later. If you have a chronically stuffy nose with no cold or allergies, you may have rhinitis of pregnancy. Symptoms will usually ease shortly after you give birth, disappearing altogether about two weeks after delivery.
Hormonal changes in your body during pregnancy can result in swelling of the mucous membranes lining your nose, which increases the amount of mucous you’re making. The congestion can also be due to swollen blood vessels in your nose caused by an increase of blood in your body. Also, irritants such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, paint and chemical fumes can cause congestion and should be avoided regardless of whether you’re stuffy or not.
Temporarily relieve symptoms by breathing in steam. Stay a while in a steamy bathroom after your shower, use a vaporizer or humidifier, or wet a towel with hot water, hold it over your nose and breathe. Use extra pillows under your head when you sleep and rest to help drain the congestion. Exercise can also help, so get up and move with pregnancy-safe exercises such as walking, swimming and aerobics.
Over-the-counter nasal sprays and drops can also be effective if your doctor says it’s OK. But be careful, because using spray decongestant for too long can worsen congestion. Or try nasal irrigation, which involves flushing out your nostrils with warm saltwater.
When to See the Doctor
If your stuffy nose is accompanied by fever, chills, coughing, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, vomiting or diarrhea, you could have the flu and should be seen by a doctor immediately. If your nose is stuffy but also runny with watery mucous, you’re sneezing and you have itchy eyes, nose, throat or ears, it may be allergies. Ask your doctor for pregnancy-safe allergy treatments. You are more susceptible to sinus infections during pregnancy, so tell your doctor if you have fever, headaches, green or yellow mucous, facial pain or pressure, upper jaw ache or a decreased sense of smell.