Is Sudafed nasal spray safe in pregnancy?

Expert advice on what you can take if you're suffering from sinusitis and inflammation during pregnancy

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In a nutshell

Sudafed is not officially recommended in pregnancy, but check with your doctor if you feel you need to use it. 

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The expert view

A bunged up nose can be an aggravating side effect of pregnancy for some women, and unfortunately there’s not a lot of help from the traditional medical remedies.

The NHS advises pregnant and breastfeeding women not to use Sudafed blocked nose spray to try to combat any congestion, but it’s worth checking with your doctor.

MFM’s GP Dr Philippa Kaye says that while “a stuffy nose is quite common in pregnancy”, mums-to-be should avoid using decongestants such as Sudafed or decongestant nose sprays.

“Even when you are not pregnant, while these sprays work in the short term, if you keep using them after seven days you will get a condition whereby you get a rebound congestion related to the decongestant itself,” she warns.

A Boston University study found a slightly increased risk of certain birth defects in the ear, digestive tract and heart following use of decongestants in early pregnancy.

But, the risks were still very small – less than 0.3% – so doctors will tend to weigh up whether the benefit of taking the medicine is worth it.

Meanwhile, if you have a really bad bout of sinusitis, some doctors will prescribe antibiotics – some of which are safe, while others are not.

Read more about antibiotics use in pregnancy here.

“If you have sinusitis then see your doctor who may decide to treat it with a steroid nasal spray instead if this is appropriate,” adds Dr Kaye.

Is there anything I can use?

Paracetamol is considered safe in pregnancy, so you could try relieving the pain with this. 

And some of the symptoms of a sinus infection can be relieved by home remedies, which pose no danger for pregnant women or unborn babies.

“If you are feeling stuffy with a cold or hayfever then breathing in some steam or using a saline (saltwater) nose spray or drops may help,” advises Dr Kaye.

Using a humidifier and drinking more fluids will help a sore throat caused by post nasal drip from your inflamed sinuses, and warm or cool compresses on your head can help any headache that your sinus infection causes.

Mums on our forum say 

Some mums on our forums commented that they couldn’t find anything other than Vicks or Olbas oil to help with their blocked noses. But this mum says:

“I suffer terribly from sinusitis and since being pregnant I have been using Sterimar which is a natural sea water nasal spray that is totally safe in pregnancy. I’ve found it makes a huge difference, more than the endless antibiotics and decongestants I was given pre-pregnancy. Also I put a saucepan of boiling water in my room at bedtime, keeps the air moist and helps to stop your nasal passages drying out.” Lou66

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