Decongestants are medicines that provide short-term relief for a blocked nose. It may not be safe to take these during pregnancy. This article explains why these medications are not safe for would-be mothers.
Pregnancy is no doubt an over-the-top feeling, however, it has a set of restrictions which need to be religiously followed. Taking rest, following a nutritious diet, performing pregnancy exercises, going for regular checkups are some of the pointers. Additionally, pregnant women also need to avoid over-the-counter medications. Since this stage is all about nourishing the fetus, it is best to avoid anything that is harmful to the baby. This explains the need to refrain from taking drugs and following other medication therapies. Pregnancy is often associated with many health problems, some of them are serious while the others are just changes in the hormonal levels (i.e., progesterone and estrogen levels). Nasal congestion is one such problem. It is best to must refrain from the use of decongestants during the course of pregnancy.
Nasal congestion is the excessive mucous production in the nasal passages that is associated with constant cold, sneezing, coughing, and nasal infections. Research suggests that the hormone estrogen, which is present in elevated amounts during pregnancy, stimulates the production of mucus. This in turn leads to the inflammation of the nasal passages. Scientifically, it is termed as pregnancy rhinitis and can be considered as one of the common discomforts associated with pregnancy.
Oral and inhaled medications act against the nasal irritation and breathing problems. They act on the inflamed part inside the nose and help provide temporary relief. The drugs that are commonly prescribed to cure this condition are:
- Oral medications: Pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine
- Inhaled medications: Xylometazoline and oxymetazoline
Research suggests that the use of oral drugs in the first trimester could put pregnant women at a risk of developing defects such as gastroschisis, small intestinal atresia, and hemifacial microsomia. However, their use is not linked to the development of malformations. The use of inhaled medications has not been linked with birth defects or malformations, however, there have been rebound effects from the overuse of these products.
The occasional use of antihistamines, decongestants, and analgesic combinations are not likely to cause problem in the fetus. However, higher doses used for a long time might cause problems. Detailed information regarding the individual components of these medications will give you a clear picture:
- Acetaminophen: This component has not caused birth defects or malformations; however, there is no substantial evidence to support this data.
- Alcohol: Some of the aforementioned combination medicines contain large amounts of alcohol. Excessive alcohol during pregnancy may cause birth defects.
- Antihistamines: These are associated with drowsiness, while there is no increase in the risk of malformations.
- Caffeine: This component has not caused harm when consumed in smaller quantities, however, large doses (amount of caffeine contained in 12 to 24 cups of coffee) may cause birth defects.
- Phenylephrine: Birth defects have been linked to their use.
- Pseudoephedrine: Human trials have not been conducted, however, when animals were administered high doses of this component, a decrease in the average weight, length, and rate of bone formation of the animal fetus was observed.
- Salicylates (aspirin): No birth defects were observed in humans, however, animal studies suggest the risk of birth defects. Regular intake of this component late in pregnancy may cause unwanted effects on the heart or blood flow in the fetus/newborn. Intake in the last 2 weeks of pregnancy may cause bleeding problems in the fetus/newborn, before or during delivery. Excessive intake of this component during the last 3 months of pregnancy may increase the duration of pregnancy, prolong labor, cause other problems during delivery, or cause severe bleeding in the mother before, during, or after delivery.
Pregnant women can be assured of the safety of short-term use of aforementioned medications. However, these drugs should not be used indiscriminately or for extended periods of time. Also, their use should be confined to only those products that are appropriate to be consumed during pregnancy. It is best that you consume medications only if your health care provider prescribes them. Alternatively, you could opt for natural remedies like steam inhalation. Another way to prevent nasal congestion is by increasing one’s fluid intake.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.