Allergic Rhinitis During Pregnancy
A Cold or Allergies?
Runny nose; itchy, watery eyes; itchy skin and rashes; sneezing and coughing - you've picked up a doozy of a cold. Or, have you? If you're in the first trimester of your pregnancy and you haven't dealt with anything quite like this before, you could well be experiencing pregnancy rhinitis, which is essentially all of the symptoms of allergies without the allergen component. There is no known cause for it; however, pregnant women often have symptoms of severe nasal congestion that occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy and might continue until after the birth of the baby. They seem to be hormonally induced - either pregnancy hormones or low thyroid function.
What Causes Allergic Reactions?
Allergies, on the other hand, are the evidence of our bodies reacting to our environment in a way that is inappropriate - it actually overreacts. Any number of things can trigger a body's immune system to go on the defensive because it views the irritant as a foreign invader. In a bid to defend itself, the body releases histamines and other chemicals to fight off the invaders. It is these chemical mediators, or histamines, that cause physical reactions in the body. All of the symptoms we mentioned above along with the effect of histamines on the lungs that cause breathing difficulties such as asthma, can be part and parcel of allergies. In extreme cases when histamines and other chemicals overreact and go into overdrive in the body, a total shutdown may occur that can be fatal. It is called anaphylactic shock. You're probably familiar with the name in relation to nut allergies and bee stings.
Nearly one-quarter of women of childbearing age live with allergies. When they become pregnant, the allergies may be exacerbated or they may be reduced to a place of being hardly noticeable. It isn't clear why some women with allergies suffer more during pregnancy and others less. And, each pregnancy is different - so a woman who had a difficult time with one pregnancy may find a subsequent pregnancy easy going. The change in symptoms may be influenced by a variety of factors, including a combination of pregnancy hormones and seasonal allergens.
Non-allergic rhinitis is thought to be the result of increased hormones that lead to nasal congestion. However, even though the symptoms are like an allergic reaction, pregnancy rhinitis does not respond to anti-histamines because it is non-allergic in nature. It's a symptom of pregnancy that presents with swollen nasal passages and other uncomfortable symptoms.
Breathing is Hard Work
During pregnancy the body has a lot of stress and strain on it, no question. Breathing can be challenging for any number of reasons - think added weight in the belly area. As the belly grows it pushes up on the diaphragm causing you to breath fast and shallow, and to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose to compensate for the difficulty you're having breathing at all. This means that more air passes into the body without the benefit of the filtration system your nose is fitted with. Compound that with the swollen nasal passages that result from hormonal changes and you've got a very uncomfortable situation, to be sure.
If you are already prone to allergies, or were dealing with them before you became pregnant, then your immune system is in an even weaker state now that you are pregnant. As a result, you may react to irritants more intensely than you would normally. The trick will be to avoid factors that you know trigger your allergies. Next, steer clear of environmental irritants and toxins like cigarette smoke, chemical fumes, and fields of blossoms.
Should You Take Your Allergy Medication?
Most women don't want to use any type of medication during pregnancy, and with good reason. However, topical nose sprays and some antihistamines have a good track record when it comes to treatment during pregnancy. It is important to weigh the potential benefits against the risks, and this is something you do with your doctor. Remember that untreated allergies can lead to more serious problems, like asthma - even if you've never had symptoms before.
If you have been taking allergy medicine before you conceived, it is important to work closely with your doctor to develop a strategy for treatment while you are pregnant. If you go off your medications without discussing it with your doctor, assuming you were going to hurt your baby by taking the meds, you may end up putting your baby at risk. Allergy-induced labored breathing can cause some serious problems:
· increased blood pressure, which can become pre-eclampsia
· increased blood pressure also triggers preterm labor
· it can affect the flow of oxygen to the baby by reducing the amount s/he gets through your blood
If you are suffering with non-allergic pregnancy rhinitis be sure to read our article on the subject in this section.