After dealing with the morning sickness (a.k.a. all-day sickness), back aches, sensitivity to smells, and exhaustion that comes with the first trimester of pregnancy, you would be forgiven for thinking that the second trimester would get easier.
Not so fast.
While it's true that morning sickness eases up (for some of us) and we can handle staying up past 8 p.m. (oh who are we kidding? Make that 7 p.m.), other symptoms start to rear their ugly heads once pregnant women pass the 14-week mark. And one you may not know about is nasal congestion, also called pregnancy rhinitis, which is congestion or a stuffy nose during pregnancy.
So, what is pregnancy rhinitis?
According to Baby Center, up to 30 per cent of women experience pregnancy rhinitis, and Whattoexpect.com even cites one study that claims 65 per cent of pregnant women experience it.
Pregnancy rhinitis is caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy, making women feel like they have nasal congestion due to a cold, but without the other symptoms, such as a sore throat.
Symptoms can start in the second month of pregnancy, but they get worse as the pregnancy progresses. Good news, though: that stuffy nose should be cleared up soon after you give birth.
What causes it?
According to Baby Center, the high levels of estrogen during pregnancy can "cause the lining of the nasal passages to swell, producing more mucus." Not only that, but because pregnancy causes more blood to circulate, blood vessels inside the nose can swell, leading to a stuffed-up nose.
What are the symptoms?
Aside from that annoying stuffy nose (which is bad enough, especially at night when we're trying to sleep but can't because it's hard to breathe), nosebleeds (or blood in the nose) are quite common, especially if you're blowing your nose a lot. Isn't pregnancy great?
How can I treat it?
Because you're pregnant, there are fewer medicinal options. However, there are several at-home treatments that can help lessen the symptoms. Just don't expect your nose to completely clear until after baby arrives. (Sorry.)
Get your steam on: Take a hot shower or put a hot cloth over your nose to help ease the symptoms and reduce swelling. This is only a temporary solution but you will feel loads better while you're doing it. Temporary relief is better than no relief!
Invest in a humidfier: Since you probably can't take time off (or have the money) to take an unplanned vacation in a hot, humid place, buy a humidifier instead. (It's a lot cheaper than a plane ticket and more convenient.) Humidity is your friend, as it can help decrease the swelling of the nasal passages and help relieve the pressure in your nose.
And Baby Center recommends drinking lots of water, elevating your head when you go to sleep, and getting mild to moderate exercise.
If you want medical intervention, Whattoexpect.com says to ask your doctor for an antihistamine or decongestant nasal spray that's safe for short-term use, and, obviously, safe for pregnant women and the baby. The site notes that saline sprays and nasal strips are considered safe, but talk to your doctor first before making a decision.
Can I prevent it?
In short, no. Some pregnant women will experience it, and some won't, and there's no way to tell whether you're more likely to suffer from nasal congestion or not. The best you can do to prepare is stock up on tissue and have a humidifier on hand, just in case.
Oh, the joys of pregnancy!
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