From a runny nose to being all bunged up, nasal changes affect a third of mums-to-be, but there’s plenty you can do to help yourself if you have a stuffy nose in pregnancy.
Got a cold coming on? It might not be just a bug – your pregnancy could be behind your blocked nose. If you’re sneezing and sniffling without an obvious cause, or your nose just feels a little different to normal, a common condition called pregnancy rhinitis could be the culprit. But there’s lots you can do to curb that snuffy nose in pregnancy.
‘Rhinitis typically starts in the first trimester and can increase towards the end of pregnancy, as increased hormone levels affect your delicate nasal passages,’ explains midwife Clare Littler.
‘The natural boost in oestrogen and progesterone can make the blood vessels and mucous membranes inside your nose swell. Your blood volume will also be greater, to support your growing baby, which further enlarges these tiny capillaries.’
Your narrowed nasal tubes also have another problem to contend with, because mucus is at the mercy of your pregnancy hormones.
‘Oestrogen increases the amount of mucus you produce,’ adds Clare. ‘It can also change its consistency. If it thickens, this can cause congestion and possibly headaches due to sinus pressure. If it becomes thinner, you’ll have a runny nose and the feeling of mucus in your throat.’
Given that the average, healthy, non-pregnant person produces more than a litre of mucus a day, you can imagine the mayhem when pregnancy rhinitis kicks in.
Pre-pregnancy, you’d normally reach for a decongestant or some over-the-counter medication. However, it’s not as simple now you’re pregnant.
‘You shouldn’t take products that contain anti-inflammatory ingredients such as ibuprofen,’ advises Clare.
‘Steer clear of nasal congestion sprays containing medication too, to be on the safe side, even those which claim to be made from just natural or herbal ingredients because these have not been adequately tested for use during pregnancy.’
Instead, head to the baby aisle of your supermarket and buy a nasal saline spray. ‘This is safe and effective,’ says Clare, ‘thinning mucus to ease your symptoms and restoring moisture to dry nasal passages.
‘It’s fine to take paracetamol too, as long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the packet for an adult dose, and make sure you drink plenty of water to keep your system hydrated.’
See your doctor if…
Your nasal congestion is accompanied by severe, persistent headaches or there’s a yellow, green or brown tinge to your mucus.
5 ways to get rid of a stuffy nose in pregnancy
Drink ginger tea
Ginger is said to have natural anti-inflammatory properties, so start the day with a hot cup of spicy, aromatic ginger tea made with fresh, grated root ginger and sweetened with a little honey. It will up your fluid intake and give your nasal passages a mini steam bath at the same time.
Open your airways
Relieve that blocked-up feeling at night with a Breathe Right strip, designed to maximise airflow. These flexible, spring-like bands lift the sides of your nose to help open inflamed passages and make breathing a little easier, £4.15 for 10 strips, boots.com
Keep away from allergens
Smoke, pollen, dust and the fumes from paint and cleaning fluids will further exacerbate frazzled mucous membranes and may worsen symptoms.
Soothe with steam
Warm, humid air will help soothe an itchy, irritated nose and clear your head. To get that relieving feeling, use a room humidifier, inhale steam from a bowl of hot water or breathe deeply through your nose as you enjoy a warm and relaxing bath or shower.
Keep your head up
Sleeping with your nose above the level of your heart means gravity will help drain mucus. Stack pillows into a wedge shape, so your neck and spine are supported, or get a Wedge Support Pillow, £24.99, dunelm.com. Raising the bed frame at the head end with blocks works too.