Approximately 30 percent of pregnant women might be affected by nasal congestion, which may progress to chest congestion. This is absolutely normal, and is termed as rhinitis of pregnancy.
Pregnancy brings a lot of changes in the body. Your hormones are changing at a rapid pace. Various internal and external changes are taking place, which can be mentally and physically exhausting. One of the common problems faced by pregnant women is nasal congestion. The symptoms strike women as early as the first trimester. Though cough and cold would not cause any complications, nasal and chest congestion can be very frustrating for a pregnant woman.
Know the causes
- According to studies, the levels of estrogen and progesterone rise during pregnancy. As a result, the nasal membranes (also the mucous membranes) swell, causing them to dry out easily. So, even a slight cold and cough can make the nose and chest feel stuffy.
- Moreover, as pregnancy progresses, the baby grows and starts occupying more space, pushing against the diaphragm. This confines the lungs to a smaller than normal space, reducing their capacity. This causes even normal breathing to be uncomfortable for women.
- The blood volume in your body increases, which is why the veins and capillaries are pumped with more than normal quantity of blood, causing them to swell. This too can cause congestion.
- Hormonal changes also weaken the immune system during pregnancy. This is normal, as your body is only adjusting to the changes that are taking place, and not retaliating to the development of a foreign object inside you (the fetus, in this case). Due to weakening of the immune system, cold can occur several times.
Difficulty in breathing, heaviness when breathing in the chest, persistent coughing, tightness when breathing, palpitation, and chest pains are the most common symptoms one might experience. These are mostly the symptoms of pregnancy than any underlying illness. So, do not expect them to vanish overnight.
A congested nose and chest with mild mucus and a runny nose may not be harmful. However, symptoms like sore throat, fever, pain, yellow or green mucus, diarrhea, vomiting, etc., can signal an underlying issue like flu.
- Since pregnancy is a delicate phase, most of the doctors will recommend a natural therapy to soothe the chest pain, especially in the first trimester.
- The most effective treatment is to drink plenty of fluids. It can be water, fruit juices, soups, and broths. Drink herbal tea. You can add ginger to the regular tea for relief. Use lemon in your drinks, as the acidic properties of lemon help drain the mucus. As the nasal membranes go dry due to swelling, it is most advisable to keep your body well hydrated at all times. This also helps in diluting the mucus, further easing congestion.
- Pamper yourself with plenty of rest. Yes, your body needs it, and it works wonders. Relax and lie down whenever time permits, to ease congestion.
- Use a chest rub to ease the pain. Saline sprays or nasal drops are also efficient to ease congestion. It helps break the mucus and decreases inflammation of the membranes.
- Use a humidifier to enhance the moisture levels in the air. You can also add a good nasal rub or herbal oil to the humidifier. A warm soak in the tub, and a steam bath will ease congestion. Simply, stay in the steam-filled room for a little longer. However, make sure you do not stay there for a very long time, as some women complain of feeling lightheaded, with prolonged exposure to steam.
- Using an extra pillow or sleeping in a sitting position with you head elevated, can ease breathing, without blocking the nasal passages. You can also use nasal strips for better breathing.
- For chest congestion, use a little vapor rub containing menthol. Rub it on your chest, neck, and nose for relief.
- Include foods rich in zinc such as pork, turkey, eggs, yogurt, beef, or oysters (cooked) in your diet. Zinc will help strengthen the immune system. Also, citrus fruits like oranges, mango, strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers, tomato, red cabbage, etc., can help fight the symptoms.
- Steaming hot food and soups like chicken soup and broth are excellent options for congestion.
- Light exercise is also helpful. Avoid exercising in dust and polluted outdoors. Also, stay away from smoke, chemical fumes, and alcohol. They worsen the congestion and irritation.
Conventional Treatment Options
During pregnancy, it is recommended to avoid medicines, especially in the first three months. Before using any over-the-counter drugs, always consult your doctor for medicines that can be safely taken during pregnancy. Drugs like Robitussin, Robitussin DM, and Vicks plain cough syrup are considered to be safe during pregnancy. However, medical advice is strictly recommended before taking any over-the-counter medicines.
If the color of mucus changes to green and yellow, and you also experience fever combined with a congested chest, vomiting or diarrhea with cold and flu for more than 3 days, etc., consult a physician.
Natural remedies are the best option for treating chest congestion during pregnancy. Don't self-medicate at this time. If the symptoms worsen, consult a doctor.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.