A Stuffy Nose In Pregnancy (Rhinitis) Is a Thing — Here's How To Get Relief

  • 32%

    Experience pregnancy congestion

  • Congestion can happen during first, second, or third trimester and is thought to be due to hormonal fluctuations in pregnancy.

  • Helpful Tips:

    • Try a humidifier or saline nasal spray
    • Keep a water bottle handy to stay hydrated
    • Prop your head up at night when sleeping
    • Keep your body moving

What is it?

During pregnancy, you may notice that you feel like you always have a stuffy nose. This is a very common issue caused by hormonal changes and increased blood flow which can inflame the mucous membranes of your nose. This congestion (also called rhinitis), can also cause a persistent runny nose and sneezing. Typically these symptoms start during pregnancy and can continue until you give birth.

The exact cause of pregnancy rhinitis is unknown, but the leading theory is that an increase in hormones, including placental growth hormone, which stimulates the growth of the baby, also causes swelling of nasal mucous membranes and excess mucus production. An increase in blood volume may also cause swelling in the tiny blood vessels in the lining of your nose and congestion in the surrounding tissue.

How common is it?

Pregnancy-induced rhinitis is fairly common. Estimates for the number of people who experience pregnancy rhinitis vary greatly across studies, but the most commonly cited stats suggest 20-32% of people across all trimesters experience it.

How long will it last?

Pregnancy rhinitis can start in almost any gestational week and typically lasts 6 or more weeks. Symptom length and severity can vary, but it typically disappears two to three weeks after delivery.

What can I do about it?

Since pregnancy rhinitis is believed to be caused by natural fluctuations in hormones during pregnancy, there’s no way to prevent it. But you can take steps to prevent getting a cold or the flu, which could make symptoms worse. Stay healthy and support your immune system by getting enough sleep, reducing stress, eating a balanced diet, taking your prenatal vitamins, staying physically active, and regularly washing your hands.

Helpful tips to alleviate symptoms
  • Use a humidifier or try saline nasal sprays or lavages to keep nasal passages moist and ease congestion. Steam from a shower can also help alleviate congestion and help moisten nasal passages.
  • Avoid nasal irritants such as cigarette smoke, chemical fumes, dust, strong perfumes, and areas of heavy pollution, which could make symptoms worse.
  • Be gentle when you blow your nose to avoid further irritation.
Stay hydrated

Hydration is key in pregnancy. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to thin mucus and ease nasal congestion. There isn’t widespread consensus on how much water you should drink daily, but the general recommendation is to drink half your weight in ounces of water daily.

Reducing nighttime congestion with props and pillows

Elevating your head at night with an extra pillow promotes nasal drainage and can help reduce congestion. You can also try using nasal strips to open your sinuses for easier breathing. Research shows they are effective (especially at night) and safe to use during pregnancy.

Movement and physical activity

Daily movement throughout pregnancy helps improve many conditions – from swelling to fatigue. Staying physically active may also ease congestion and support quality sleep.

Consult your healthcare provider before using medication

Many medications used to relieve nasal congestion are not safe to use during pregnancy. Make sure you check in with your healthcare provider before starting any over-the-counter medications or supplements to treat nasal congestion.

When should I be worried?

Pregnancy congestion is more of an annoyance than a major health concern. However, if symptoms start interfering with your daily life or sleep, talk to your healthcare provider about your options for getting relief. It’s also important to be able to distinguish rhinitis from an actual cold, flu, or infection. If your nasal secretions are green or brown, they may indicate a bacterial infection instead of rhinitis. In some cases, pregnancy rhinitis leads to an exacerbation of asthma symptoms — so if you have asthma, make sure you always have the appropriate medication on hand and notify your doctor if your symptoms are worsening.

Bodily does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5017109/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35131140/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15208461/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6315424/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17216739/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26365758/
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