Pregnancy Rhinitis: How Congestion During Pregnancy is More Than a Stuffy Nose

Pregnant woman with pregnancy rhinitis blowing her nose in bed.

Anyone who's ever had kids could tell you that the Mom Life is not easy, and pregnancy is no exception. While pregnancy is a beautiful and intimate time in a woman's life, it's certainly no walk in the park! 

Not only do pregnant women contend with the physical changes that accompany a growing baby, but they also have to deal with significant emotional and hormonal changes

One of the most commonly experienced pregnancy conditions is what’s known as pregnancy rhinitis. It may not seem severe like other potential pregnancy complications, but that doesn’t mean that you should ignore those symptoms if you have them. Congestion during pregnancy can be maddening and may even be a sign pointing to underlying issues.

Pregnancy rhinitis is a chronic stuffy nose that starts during pregnancy and can last for at least six weeks.

What is Pregnancy Rhinitis?

If you have seasonal allergies or hay fever, then you may be familiar with the phrase "allergic rhinitis." Allergic rhinitis refers to a stuffy nose that’s caused by allergens irritating your nasal passages. Pregnancy rhinitis is actually a form of nonallergic rhinitis— or allergy symptoms that are not caused by allergies or infections. 

Instead, pregnancy-induced stuffiness is an inflammation of your nose's mucus membranes due to increased blood flow to the nasal passages.

Pregnancy rhinitis can affect anywhere between 18 and 42 percent of pregnant women, most often occurring early in the first trimester and in late pregnancy.

Pregnancy Rhinitis Symptoms

The symptoms of pregnancy rhinitis are just like any other hay fever or allergy symptoms you can experience outside of pregnancy. These symptoms include:

  • Nasal congestion or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sinus infections (sinusitis)

What Causes Pregnancy Rhinitis?

Experts aren't 100 percent sure what causes these allergy symptoms, but many believe it's because of the normal hormonal changes all pregnant women experience. It may also be caused by your body creating extra fluid as your baby grows. 

However, having a history of seasonal allergies or asthma will not increase your risk of pregnancy rhinitis. So if you even if you regularly experience hay fever or if you have asthma, you may not even develop pregnancy rhinitis at all.

Normal Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, women experience dramatic, sudden increases in estrogen and progesterone. These hormones help support the growth and development of the fetus, improve the formation of blood vessels, and transfer nutrients to the fetus.

Progesterone levels are also high during pregnancy. These changes cause your body’s ligaments and joints to loosen, also helping your uterus grow to accommodate a growing baby.

Stuffy Nose? You May Be Pregnant!

Pregnancy rhinitis is an extremely common pregnancy symptom. It can even occur even before many women know that they're pregnant. So ladies, if you're feeling stuffed up and your symptoms aren't letting up, then it's possible that you may be pregnant. In fact, it's so common during early pregnancy that it may be able to indicate pregnancy even before a missed period. [1]

Even though pregnancy-induced stuffiness may seem run-of-the-mill at the start, it’s very important to take these symptoms seriously.

Pregnancy Rhinitis and Fetal Health

Left untreated, pregnancy rhinitis can have adverse effects on a developing fetus. More research is needed to fully understand the connection, but untreated congestion in pregnant women can cause habitual snoring during pregnancy. This can increase their risk of developing health conditions that can potentially harm their baby, including:

  • High blood pressure— also known as hypertension
  • Preeclampsia— a serious pregnancy complication that can cause extremely high blood pressure and potentially organ damage

Pregnancy rhinitis can also lead to sinusitis, ear infections, and worsened asthma symptoms if an expectant mother already has asthma. Rhinitis during pregnancy can cause headaches, anxiety, and insomnia to worsen or become more frequent. 

Pregnancy Rhinitis and Poor Sleep

It’s more important than ever for an expectant mother to get a good night’s sleep during pregnancy. Unfortunately, this may be easier said than done. Factors like fetal movements, frequent bathroom breaks, as well as the myriad physical and hormonal changes taking place in the body can make getting a good night’s sleep difficult.

If you’re regularly experiencing poor sleep during pregnancy, keep an eye out for these symptoms. 

  • Snoring. Some snoring is actually normal during pregnancy because of how your body is changing. However, loud snoring could be a sign of not getting enough oxygen while you are sleeping. Snoring contributes to poor quality, fragmented sleep, which can lead to high blood pressure and increased anxiety.
  • Waking up during the night. Again, this is normal to a certain extent during pregnancy. Frequent urination is a common pregnancy symptom, and it’s not uncommon at all for expectant mothers to get up to use the bathroom at night, especially in the 3rd trimester. But if you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep, it can be a sign of a deeper problem.
    • Daytime fatigue. Feeling tired during the day is a sign that you’re not sleeping well. If you feel tired during the day even after a full night of sleep, you may be suffering from poor quality sleep. 

    While these symptoms can be common during pregnancy, they are also potential signs of sleep apnea— a serious sleep disorder that causes pauses or stops in breathing during the night. If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms to a concerning extent, it’s important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

    Sleep apnea during pregnancy can also increase the risk of complications including low birth weight and pre-term birth. Sleep apnea during pregnancy can also cause insulin resistance and increase your risk of gestational diabetes. [2]

    Related: How to Sleep with a Stuffy Nose

    5 Ways to Treat Pregnancy Rhinitis

    Being congested is uncomfortable at the best of times, and it can be especially annoying when you're pregnant and experiencing all sorts of other bodily changes. But there are easy ways for you to treat pregnancy rhinitis and give you some much-needed relief.

    Tip #1: Ease decongestion gently and naturally with SinuSonic. Our patented device uses gentle acoustic waves and light pressure to decongest your nasal passages naturally and without drugs or the mess that irrigation can bring.

    Tip #2: Drink plenty of fluids— especially water. This prevents dehydration, which can make nasal symptoms worse. Staying hydrated also helps keep your mucus membranes nice and moist. 

    Tip #3: Use a humidifier to increase the humidity in your home. This keeps your nasal passages from getting dry and irritated.

    Tip #4: Use an extra pillow or a wedge to elevate your head while you sleep. This will help reduce congestion and help you sleep better. Using a nasal strip can help open your airways further.

    Tip #5: Avoid over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants and nasal sprays.

    Why You Shouldn't Use Over-the-Counter Decongestants and Nasal Sprays

    For some, reaching for the OTC decongestants may be your first instinct with nasal stuffiness. However, you may want to reconsider that if you're pregnant.

    Some of these medications— such as those that contain an antihistamine— aren't effective for pregnancy rhinitis because your body isn't reacting to any allergens or irritants. However, if you're experiencing normal allergy symptoms during pregnancy, allergy medications with antihistamines are still safe to take. [3]

    Decongestants, however, are not as safe to take during pregnancy because they narrow the blood vessels in your nose. This is especially true during the first trimester when pregnancy rhinitis is most likely to occur.

    But you may be thinking— "what about nasal spray? That stays in my nose, right?" Not always.

    Nasal sprays tend to work quickly because they're applied directly to the inflamed nasal passage and don't get into your blood. Most importantly, these won't reach your developing baby. However, this is not the case for all nasal sprays. Some of them can be absorbed into your bloodstream— which increases the chance that they can affect your baby.

    Nasal spray can also cause rhinitis medicamentosa, a disorder that, ironically, causes even worse congestion and nasal symptoms if you’ve used nasal spray excessively or for extended periods of time. 

    Always talk to your doctor before you begin taking any over-the-counter medications. They can help you figure out which of them are safe to take during all stages of your pregnancy.

    Need a Safe Way to Decongest? Try SinuSonic

    Treating congestion can be tricky if you’re experiencing cold or allergy symptoms and nonallergic symptoms like pregnancy rhinitis together. It can be even more difficult if you’re not sure what’s causing your symptoms. That’s why it’s important to seek treatment that can address all forms of congestion, and without drugs or chemicals.

    SinuSonic has been clinically researched on its effectiveness for both allergic and nonallergic rhinitis, and rhinologists recommend it as a universal solution for nasal congestion.

    SinuSonic’s gentle acoustic vibrations and positive expiratory pressure (PEP) delivers safe, drug-free relief for all causes of congestion— including pregnancy rhinitis.

    In laboratory studies, SinuSonic significantly improved nasal congestion symptoms and peak nasal inspiratory airflow (PNIF). More than 80 percent of study patients reported improvements in their congestion symptoms and better airflow. And when you breathe better, your quality of life grows.

    Don't Let Nasal Congestion Cause a Bump in Your Pregnancy

    Pregnancy rhinitis is a common occurrence for many expectant mothers. Left untreated, it can potentially cause some serious complications— but it shouldn't ruin what can be a very beautiful time in your life.

    Knowing what causes pregnancy rhinitis makes it infinitely easier to treat, and you can do both without relying on drugs, chemicals, and messy irrigation.

    SinuSonic is safe enough for daily use, and works even better the longer you use it. Breathe freely and help your nose work the way nature intended!

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    1. Rendall, Jessica. "11 Signs You're Pregnant, before Your Missed Period." CNET,
    2. Sanapo, Laura, et al. “Association between Sleep Disordered Breathing in Early Pregnancy and Glucose Metabolism.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 6 Jan. 2022, 
    3. Bass, Pat. "Can You Take Allergy Medicine While Pregnant?" Verywell Health, Verywell Health, 1 Apr. 2022,