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Baby Talk: Here’s what you need to know about rhinitis during pregnancy

A woman’s body faces many challenges while growing a baby.

Her body is nourishing cells with hormones, providing a home for the baby to develop, growing another organ, the placenta, to feed the baby and growing an umbilical cord to connect the placenta to the baby.

At the same time as the baby is growing, her own organs are rearranging their spaces inside her body to adjust to the space the baby is taking up inside her.

The role of the immune system is to fight off anything invading our body. The vast network of cells of the immune system is always on the lookout to destroy the invader. During pregnancy, a woman’s immune system will respond slowly and gently, to protect the baby.

This makes the pregnant woman more susceptible to colds, the flu and other illnesses. These illnesses can last longer and be more severe than when she is not pregnant.

A few years ago during a flu epidemic, one of the populations most at risk of having a severe flu was pregnant women. It is another reason why women of childbearing age should get the flu shot to protect themselves and their baby if they should get pregnant.

Around 40 percent of pregnant women develop what is called gestational rhinitis. It can start at any time during a pregnancy and usually lasts around 10 days. It can reoccur throughout a pregnancy and disappear after delivery.

Katie Powers mug shot.jpg
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace.

Gestational refers to pregnancy. A gestation, or length of a pregnancy, is 40 weeks. Gestational high blood pressure is high blood pressure during a pregnancy. Gestational diabetes usually occurs after the 26-week mark of a pregnancy as the pancreas is challenged by hormones produced by the placenta.

Gestational rhinitis is nasal congestion lasting for six or more weeks during pregnancy. It can involve sneezing, nasal congestion and a runny nose. All of these conditions tend to go away after the delivery of the baby.

During pregnancy there is increased blood flow to all mucous membranes, including the nose. Estrogen receptors are also in abundant supply during a pregnancy. Both of these things can cause the nose to swell which then leads to stuffiness and watery drainage.

Women who already suffer from allergies may have more severe symptoms. On top of the swollen nose and watery discharge, they can also have sneezing, itching and serious nasal obstruction.

Saline irrigation of the nose is one of the recommended treatments to deal with the symptoms. Over the counter drugs are not recommended to be used as they can harm the growing baby.

Gestational rhinitis is usually harmless. However, if you find you are having trouble breathing, make sure your physician or midwife are aware of what you are dealing with.

Anything that affects your ability to do your daily activities, including breathing, is not good for the woman or her baby.

Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living in the Bradenton Herald. Contact her at katie.powers@mmhhs.com.

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