Many of us are aware of the pregnancy trifecta of constipation, back pain, and heartburn: three common symptoms many people experience after they see those two pink lines. While I did get the pleasure of experiencing all three, there was one additional symptom that nobody warned me about, and let me tell you, it rocked my knocked-up world.
Once week twelve of my pregnancy hit, my nose was running like a tap. Constantly. I was blowing my nose during work presentations, snoring when I was sleeping, and was convinced that I was coming down with a cold that never manifested. This mysterious congestion did not help in the sleep department either — if I wasn't waking up because of my baby dancing on my bladder, I was waking up because my nose was so stuffy that I had a hard time breathing!
After griping about my congestion to a friend, she casually said, "Oh, that happens to me during each of my pregnancies! It's called pregnancy rhinitis!" What?! There's an actual name for it? How have I never heard of this before?!
What is Pregnancy Rhinitis?
"Pregnancy rhinitis is defined as nasal congestion with no known allergic cause that resolves within two weeks after delivery," explains Ankita Langan, MD, FACOG, an ob-gyn in Columbus, Georgia. "It typically occurs in the last one to two months of pregnancy, but can occur sooner. Patients usually complain of nasal congestion and/or clear nasal drainage."
Turns out that pregnancy rhinitis affects almost 49 percent of pregnancies and the effects can continue throughout an entire pregnancy. You can blame it on hormones secreted by the placenta. According to data published in Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, these placental hormones may cause the mucus membranes in the nose to become larger, allowing more nasal discharge "flow." Estrogen and progesterone may also constricting the blood vessels in the nose and stimulate the production of more mucus. All this to say: You'll have a smaller nasal passage and more snot. This usually results in mouth-breathing and lots of nose blowing. Sexy, I know.
How Can I Treat Pregnancy Rhinitis?
There are some safe options that can be used during pregnancy that may help pregnant people find some relief if they are experiencing this condition. Dr. Langan said some simple therapies, like saline nasal spray, nasal irrigation (with a Neti Pot), or nasal dilator strips (available over the counter), may be useful at night. She also recommends elevating the head of the bed 30-45 degrees to see if that helps. Lastly, as long as your doctor is ok with physical activity, regular exercise may help relieve symptoms, Dr. Langan said.
While it's annoying, pregnancy rhinitis is very manageable, and thankfully does not linger after baby arrives. And I found that even though I constantly thought I was coming down with a cold, that uncomfortableness was a distant memory once I finally held my baby in my arms.