Sinusitis In Pregnancy

Many mums-to-be suffer from sinusitis. So what causes it? And how can you ease painful and blocked sinuses?

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Feeling bunged up? Head pounding? It might be that you’ve caught a cold ?

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Or if you’re pregnant, there’s a good chance that what’s causing those throbbing, painful symptoms is actual sinusitis  – an inflammation of the sinuses, also known as a sinus infection. 

Getting sinusitis during pregnancy is surprisingly common, but there are things you can do to ease the pain, which might save you a trip to your GP…

Is it a cold or is it a sinus infection?

Many women report having congestion, a runny nose, coughing, sneezing and pressure headaches during pregnancy.

These are all pretty well known as the general symptoms of the common cold, though sometimes it’s referred to as pregnancy rhinitis – and can be a regular occurrence in your 1st trimester.

But if your symptoms don’t go away after a week or so, or you have other symptoms (see below), you might have sinusitis.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

Here are signs you may be sporting a lovely case of sinusitis, rather than a cold:

  • Green or yellow discharge from the nose (which we reckon is a fancy term for snot ?)
  • A blocked nose ?
  • Pain and tenderness around your cheeks, eyes or forehead ?
  • A nasty sinus headache
  • 38 degree (or more) temperature?️
  • Toothache
  • A reduced sense of smell
  • Bad breath ?

Many of the mums on our forums found they got these symptoms around the 14-week mark. However, sinusitis seems to like the element of surprise, and can occur at any stage of your pregnancy.

What causes sinusitis in pregnancy?

Both sinusitis AND rhinitis are caused by the body’s overproduction of oestrogen and the pregnancy hormone progesterone.

Progesterone dilates the nasal passages, causing them to swell and partially block the airways, while oestrogen affects mucus production.

It’s also thought that the increased blood supply in your body affects the mucus membranes in your nose.

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Are there any natural remedies that can help sinusitis?

Where possible, tackling this head pain head on (without medication like antibiotics) is usually the best way to go.

Luckily, there are some handy home remedies you can try to ease the pain of the symptoms:

  • If your nose is congested, try saline nose drops, which will dry up some of the secretion, helping you to breathe easier and keep your airways moist
  • Try a simple linctus (a syrup made from glycerine and just a tad of sugar)
  • Or you can make your own honey and lemon drink ?? if you have a sore throat or cough
  • Steam inhalation could help to unblock your airways, so get a bowl of hot water and place your head over it, with a towel over your head and breathe in and out deeply
  • Keep hydrated ? by drinking lots of fluids, especially orange juice for vitamin C ?
  • If you can’t sleep because your face is bunged up, try and raise the head of your bed, by adding extra pillows so that you’re sleeping propped up
  • If things are getting particular uncomfortable, invest in a humidifier.

You’ll also find that certain things work for your specific set of symptoms, like many of our mums.

Lou66 says: “I suffer terribly from sinusitis and… 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”.

Whereas dg0209 suggests trying “a few drops of oregano oil in boiling water and inhale the steam. It helps me to ease the pain and unblock congestion.”

Are decongestants OK to take while pregnant?

Registered midwife Lorraine Berry recommends exercising caution when it comes to decongestants like nasal sprays, capsules and dissolvable powders. 

“There really isn’t enough information on decongestant products such as Vicks, Olbas Oil and menthol,” says Lorraine. “So it’s best to avoid them, particularly before 12 weeks.”

‘If you do need to use them, use sparingly with a couple of drops on a tissue or hanky that you whiff every now and again”.

Is it safe to take antibiotics or painkillers for sinusitis while pregnant?

As if sinusitis wasn’t frustrating enough, during pregnancy it can be even more irritating – as you can’t necessarily treat it with the medicines and tablets you might be used to.

“It’s ethically wrong to test most medicines on pregnant women and babies, so because we really don’t know the problems they could cause, it’s best to avoid them”, explains Lorraine.

She recommends avoiding any medicines during the first 3 months of pregnancy, although after 12 weeks, some medication such as paracetamol can be taken.

We’d also advise that you always pop down to see your GP for a chat before you take anything, though.

“I started to have sinus congestion at 15th week,” says forum member dg0209. “I tried to cope with it without any medication but the headaches were unbearable. My GP told me to take paracetamol 4×2 p/d and prescribed a nasal spray.

Many health professionals also feel that antibiotics such as Amoxicillin are perfectly safe to take during pregnancy, but again, speak to your doctor – as it totally depends on your own personal situation.

Have your say

Sick of banging headaches and snotty tissues lying around? We feel you ? Let us know your sinusitis story in the comments below, or join our MFM Chat

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