Everything You Should Know About Sneezing During Pregnancy

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on December 1, 2017Written by Corinne O’Keefe Osborn

Overview

There are many unknowns to pregnancy, so it’s normal to have a lot of questions. Things that used to seem harmless may now cause you anxiety, like sneezing. You may be more prone to sneezing during pregnancy, but rest assured that it:

  • isn’t harmful to you or your baby
  • isn’t a sign of a complication
  • cannot cause a miscarriage

Read on to learn more about sneezing and pregnancy.

Sneezing and pregnancy

Many women sneeze more than normal when they’re pregnant. Doctors call this pregnancy rhinitis. Pregnancy rhinitis is nasal congestion that begins at any point during pregnancy and resolves within two weeks of your baby’s birth. Symptoms include:

  • runny nose
  • stuffiness
  • sneezing

The cause is unknown, but is probably related to hormonal changes.

Allergies

Women with allergies may continue to experience allergy symptoms during pregnancy. This includes seasonal allergies (pollen, hay) and indoor allergies (pet dander, dust mites).

A evaluated decades worth of data from the National Survey of Family Growth. The study found that allergies during pregnancy didn’t increase the risk of adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight or preterm birth.

Cold or flu

You might be sneezing because you have a cold or flu. During pregnancy, your immune system is compromised. Normally, your immune system is quick to respond to the harmful germs that cause sickness and disease. When you’re pregnant, however, your immune system is being careful not to mistake your growing baby for a harmful invader. That causes it to react more slowly to actual invaders, like the virus that causes cold symptoms. This means that you’re extra vulnerable to that nasty cold going around the office.

The common cold doesn’t pose any risk to you or your baby, but the flu can be dangerous. If you suspect a flu or a fever, contact your doctor right away.

Risks

Your body is built to keep your baby very safe. Sneezing cannot hurt your baby. Sneezing doesn’t pose any risks to your baby at any stage of a pregnancy. However, sneezing can be a symptom of an illness or disease, such as the flu or asthma.

When you have the flu, so does your baby. When you’re having difficulty breathing, the baby isn’t getting needed oxygen either. Talk to your doctor if you have either the flu or asthma, as there are considerations they may take for pregnancy to ensure good birth outcomes.

Some pregnant women experience a sharp pain radiating around their belly when they sneeze. This can be painful, but it isn’t dangerous. As the uterus grows, the ligaments that attach it to the side of the abdomen are stretched. Doctors call this round ligament pain. Sneezing and coughing can put more pressure on the ligament, causing a stabbing pain.

How to manage sneezing during pregnancy

Anything that you ingest when you’re pregnant can be passed along to your baby. This means you must be careful about what you put in your body, especially when it comes to medication. Some pain relievers, antihistamines, and allergy medications are safe to use during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about your options.

You may also want to try:

  • A neti pot. Use a neti pot to clear out your sinuses with a saline solution or distilled water.
  • A humidifier. Use a humidifier at night to prevent dry air from irritating your nasal passages.
  • An air purifier. You may be allergic to something in your home or office, like mold or dust. An air purifier can help with this.
  • A saline nasal spray. Use a saline nasal spray to clear out the sinuses.
  • Avoiding triggers. If you’re triggered by seasonal allergies or pet dander, change your clothes when you come home and take a shower.
  • Getting a flu shot. It’s safe and advisable to get a flu shot when you’re pregnant. Try to do it by November so that you’re protected before flu season is in full swing.
  • Assuming the position. If you have abdominal pain when you sneeze, try holding your belly or lying on your side in the fetal position.
  • Managing your asthma. If you have asthma, make a plan with your doctor and follow it carefully.
  • Exercising. Regular, pregnancy-safe exercise will keep you healthy and boost your immune system.
  • Wearing a pad. If sneezing causes you to expel urine, an absorbent pad can help reduce wetness and prevent embarrassment.
  • Using a pregnancy belt. A pregnancy belt may help reduce sneeze-related abdominal pain.
  • Vitamin C-rich foods. Eating foods rich in vitamin C, like oranges, may help naturally boost your immune system.

Seeking help

Sneezing is rarely anything to worry about. If you have asthma, talk to your doctor about which medications are safe to use during pregnancy.

Seek help immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • difficulty breathing
  • a fever over 100°F (37.8°C)
  • trouble keeping down fluids
  • an inability to eat or sleep
  • chest pain or wheezing
  • coughing up green or yellow mucus

Takeaway

Many women sneeze more often during pregnancy. It’s quite common. Your baby is very well protected and won’t be harmed by a sneeze.

If you do have a cold, the flu, asthma, or allergies, speak with your doctor about treatments that are safe during pregnancy.

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