What Causes Congestion and Nosebleeds During Pregnancy?

Your nose may bleed unexpectedly during pregnancy, and you might also have some unexplained congestion. Find out what causes these strange symptoms.

Pregnant person having a nosebleed

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Pregnancy causes a lot of surprising symptoms. Two of these are nasal congestion and nosebleeds. So, don't worry if you feel a little stuffy or spot some blood on a tissue after blowing your nose. Nosebleeds and congestion are common (albeit annoying) symptoms of carrying a baby. Learn about the causes, treatment options, and prevention strategies for nosebleeds and congestion in pregnancy.

Causes of Nosebleeds During Pregnancy

Lots of changes happen in your body during pregnancy, even in your nose. Your body is producing much more blood during pregnancy. The teeny blood vessels in your nose can swell up, dry out, and rupture, causing your nose to bleed, a condition that doctors refer to as epistaxis. You may also notice that your nose is more congested than usual, which is often the result of increased blood flow to the mucus membranes.

Nosebleeds are quite common during pregnancy. According to a 2019 study, while around 6% of non-pregnant people experience nosebleeds, over 20% of pregnant ones do, meaning you're more than three times as likely to get a nosebleed while expecting.

Causes of Nasal Congestion in Pregnancy

Nasal congestion is even more prevalent in pregnancy than nosebleeds. Research shows that 65% of pregnant people report having a stuffy nose at some point during their pregnancy. Nasal congestion can occur during pregnancy for a variety of reasons, such as allergies or infections, but can also be related directly to the changes associated with pregnancy itself.

About 30% of pregnant people experience what is called pregnancy-related rhinitis, nasal congestion at the end of pregnancy that occurs without signs of infection and allergy. In these cases, the congestion may be due to pregnancy-related fluid retention, inflammation, hormonal changes, and increased blood flow.

How to Treat and Prevent Nosebleeds in Pregnancy

There isn't a whole lot you can do to prevent nosebleeds in pregnancy, but dry air can make you more susceptible. To avoid dry air making things worse, use a humidifier in your bedroom during the winter months (indoor heating can dry out your nasal passages). It may also help to dab a little moisturizing petroleum jelly around your nostrils before going to bed. And always be extra gentle when blowing your nose. Now's the time to splurge on the super-soft tissues!

For the most part, nosebleeds during pregnancy should be treated similarly to how they are handled when you're not pregnant.

When a nosebleed strikes, apply pressure to your nostrils while sitting or standing (lying down or tilting your head back will make it worse). If the blood flow is very heavy, try this first-aid trick: Place a clean tampon (you have no other need for them these days!) just inside the opening of your nose. It may look silly, but a tampon is much more absorbent than a wadded-up tissue.

Pregnancy-related nosebleeds usually subside quickly. However, if the bleeding is heavy and frequent, call your doctor.

How to Treat and Prevent Congestion in Pregnancy

If you're prone to a stuffy nose during pregnancy, there's not much you can do to prevent it. However, avoiding contact with sick people and large crowds and washing hands frequently can reduce the likelihood of getting a respiratory infection that will exacerbate the issue. If your nasal congestion is due to flu, a cold, or another infection, getting the rest you need can help you recover more quickly. If allergies are to blame, aim to stay away from your triggers, such as pollen or pets.

While you may not be able to completely cure your nasal congestion during pregnancy, there are things you can do to help manage your symptoms and feel more comfortable. If you are experiencing congestion, increase your fluid intake and try to clear things up by spritzing saline nasal spray into your nose. (Just make sure it's a simple saline spray as other types of nose sprays aren't safe for pregnant people.) Taking a steamy shower can help fluid drain.

Avoid over-the-counter decongestants, as they may not be safe to take during pregnancy. Also, let your doctor know about bothersome congestion, particularly if it doesn't go away.

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