During pregnancy, you might expect to experience heartburn and swollen ankles. But “pregnancy drip” is one uncomfortable symptom you might not be prepared for.

Rhinitis is the official name for the runny, drippy nose many pregnant women experience. Here’s a look at the causes and treatment options.

What’s rhinitis of pregnancy?

Pregnancy rhinitis is nasal congestion that lasts for six or more weeks during pregnancy. Rhinitis affects between 18 and 42 percent of pregnant women. It frequently affects women early on in the first trimester, and again in late pregnancy.

Rhinitis can begin almost anytime during pregnancy. It disappears after you have your baby, usually within two weeks after delivery. The symptoms of rhinitis include:

  • sneezing
  • congestion
  • runny nose

Call your doctor if you notice a chance in nasal stuffiness or drainage, you have a fever, or you aren’t feeling well.

Is rhinitis dangerous during pregnancy?

Rhinitis can cause potentially harmful side effects for both mother and baby. It can lead to sleep disorders that may interfere with the baby's ability to get all the oxygen they need to develop. Speak to your doctor if you're suffering from pregnancy rhinitis, snoring, or waking up frequently in the night.

Causes of rhinitis of pregnancy

Some cases of rhinitis during pregnancy are completely benign. This means they don't really have a cause other than the pregnancy itself.

Pregnancy causes a lot of changes in the body that can lead to rhinitis. During pregnancy, blood flow increases to areas of the body called mucous membranes. Your nose is one of them. The swelling in the nose from this change can cause stuffiness and watery drainage.

Some rhinitis cases are caused by allergies. Allergic rhinitis affects about one-third of women who are of childbearing age. The symptoms are usually more severe than the average case of pregnancy rhinitis. They include:

  • sneezing
  • itching
  • severe nasal obstruction

How is rhinitis of pregnancy treated?

The best natural treatments to use for rhinitis during pregnancy are:

  • saline irrigation
  • Breathe Right strips

Saline irrigation helps clear out the nasal passages. There are no known side effects. How does it work? You’ll put saline solution into one nostril and let it drain out of the other nostril. This helps clean out the nasal passages.

You can perform nasal irrigation at home with a spray or squirt bottle, or use a neti pot with saline irrigation. This is a solution containing salt (salt water) that can be used to cleanse the nasal passages. It’s important to use sterile (distilled or boiled) water to make the saline solution.

You can also try the Breathe Right strips you’ll find in drugstores. They help to manually hold open the nasal passages. Studies show that they are effective, especially at night. They are pregnancy-safe and there are no known harmful side effects.

What to avoid

Avoid nasal decongestants. They aren’t pregnancy-safe.

If your rhinitis is caused by allergies, it will be treated differently. There are several medications that can be used during pregnancy. Your doctor can recommend a treatment that’s pregnancy-safe.

Next steps

While pregnancy rhinitis is usually harmless, you should talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms that are interfering with your ability to perform daily activities. This includes your ability to sleep. Also see your doctor before starting any medication at home to treat rhinitis. They’ll need to ensure that the medication or treatment is pregnancy-safe.

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