As springtime approaches, so does allergy season. Many pregnant women are faced with this common problem, yet are uncertain about what they can do to minimize their symptoms while keeping their unborn baby safe. Allergies can be worse in pregnancy; as it is, up to one-third of women notice significant swelling of the nasal passages due to pregnancy alone. This can make allergies even more of a challenge to overcome. If you know you have significant seasonal allergies, consider consulting with an allergist prior to pregnancy, as skin testing is generally avoided.
Management of allergies can be a challenge, and it is always best to first consult your doctor, nurse, or midwife. There are, however, several options that are available that are considered safe. Sometimes all it takes is elevating the head of the bed slightly (try a few books or blocks); this can minimize drainage and lead to a better night’s sleep. Several nasal saline sprays are available over the counter that can relieve symptoms of congestion and are a great first line. Regular exercise is also beneficial in pregnancy, as it causes the blood vessels in the nasal passages to constrict leading to less swelling. As always, make sure to consult your healthcare provider prior to doing any regular exercise program.
If none of these methods work, there are several prescription options available. Nasal sprays which contain low doses of steroids, comparable to ones used in asthma, can be used in pregnancy. Because they act directly on the nasal passage, these medications are usually effective in relieving congestion, runny nose, and postnasal drip. Antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claritin®) and cetirizine (Zyrtec®), can be beneficial as well. Several studies have evaluated their safety and, while any medication has potential risks and side effects, these are generally considered safe. Decongestants, especially ones containing phenylephrine, should be avoided altogether in pregnancy. Together with your healthcare provider, you can decide if any of these options are right for you. Hopefully, all it takes is a few easy steps to breathe easy this spring.
Get outside and enjoy!