Nasal Decongestant During Pregnancy

image001Many women undergo nasal congestion during pregnancy. This congestion occurs when the blood vessels in the mucosal membrane of the nose expand. This expansion allows exudation or dripping of fluid from the blood vessels and eventually causes congestion in the nose. This congestion can also occur in the sinuses or chest.

Decongestants are medications that help to prevent accumulation of this fluid by constricting the blood vessels in the nasal mucosa. Some of the over the counter decongestants include: oral decongestant pseudoephedrine with trade names like Sudafed, topical sprays Neo-Synephrine, Afrin, and inhalers like Benzedrex. Every medication must be used with caution so it is of utmost importance to learn the precautions you should take when using nasal decongestant during pregnancy as well as other natural remedies that you can use.

Is Nasal Decongestant During Pregnancy Safe?

According to Dr. Corey Babb, OB-Gyn at Utica Park Clinic, nasal decongestants are mostly safe during pregnancy. While explaining the effect of nasal decongestants on pregnant women, he said that when used for a short time period, nasal decongestant during pregnancy does not harm the baby. This is because they do not contain enough medication to cause damage to the fetus. Moreover, the use of nasal decongestant sprays is even safer because the medication is not absorbed in the body; rather its effect is totally local and contained within the nose. Generally, over-the-counter nasal decongestants are not strong enough to cause any trouble during pregnancy.

Category B nasal decongestants like Sudafed, are the drugs that have shown no damage to the unborn baby in animal testing. Health care providers, therefore, prefer giving category B nasal decongestants to expectant mothers if a need for them arises during pregnancy.

Dr. Babb further recommends using an anti-histamine like Loratadine, Cetirizine or Diphendydramine in case a pregnant woman has a runny nose instead of a congested one.

Precautions to Take

All medications have side-effects; therefore, before using any drug, you should discuss its adverse reactions with your doctor. Before you start any new medication, be sure to talk about its pros and cons with your health care provider.

  • Effects on blood pressure. Many nasal decongestants are alpha channel blockers; this means that they can cause an increase in the blood pressure by narrowing the blood vessels in the body. Patients with chronic hypertension or with pregnancy induced hypertension should totally avoid such nasal decongestants.
  • Importance of talking to your doctor. If nasal congestion is becoming really troublesome for you, you can talk to your doctor about a suitable nasal decongestant. Most health care providers will tell you to avoid taking any medication during the first trimester when organogenesis or formation of organs is taking place in the fetus. Unless it is totally unavoidable, stay away from drugs during this time.

Nasal decongestants during pregnancy can only be used if your doctor agrees; however, you must be careful and keep its use to a bare minimal. Using a nasal decongestant spray for more than three days can worsen congestion due to rebound inflammation.

More Information on Different Types of Nasal Decongestant During Pregnancy

Generally, during pregnancy over-the-counter drugs are avoided. Many drugs that are considered safe now, may not be considered safe in the future; instead of risking the health of your baby, it is better to not take any medication.

Avoidance is better than cure; for this reason, limit your exposure to people so that you may not contract any viral infection or flu. Sometimes, however, it becomes unavoidable to take medication; in this case, talk with your doctor about which medicines are safe and which are not.

1. Pseudoephedrine

This is a popular over-the-counter nasal decongestant during pregnancy. Despite that, it is a category C drug which means that although safe for the fetus, its effects have not been studied widely in pregnant humans and animals.

Pseudoephedrine or Sudafed is widely used to relieve stuffy nose caused by a common cold or allergy. Its effect is mainly short-term and it works by constricting the blood vessels of the nasal membranes. Although it might temporarily relieve symptoms of the patient, it will not treat the cause of congestion.

If you want to use pseudoephedrine, you must first talk about it with your doctor or midwife.

2. Loratadine

This is a category B drug which means that animal experimentation with this drug has shown no harmful effects. It is therefore, considered to be a safe drug to take during pregnancy.

Because it is an anti-histamine, it acts mainly to alleviate allergy related sneezing and congestion; it will not, however, treat the allergy itself. By taking Loratadine you will merely reduce your reaction to allergens.

3. Spray Nasal Decongestant

Spray nasal decongestants, like Afrin sprays were mostly considered to be without side-effects for pregnant women previously. But like pseudoephedrine, they are now found to work by reducing the blood supply to the sinuses. Their overuse therefore is not recommended for anyone.

Furthermore, they are thought to have some systemic absorption too; for this reason it is recommended for pregnant women to limit their exposure to such medication.

Saline-only nasal decongestant sprays, on the other hand, are considered to be safe during pregnancy.

Natural Remedies for Nasal Congestion During Pregnancy

You can try the following remedies for nasal decongestion during pregnancy:

  • Rubbing Vicks vaporub or any other camphorated ointment under the nose
  • Eating a spicy meal
  • Taking a decongestant after consulting the doctor.

Here are some other measures which you can take to reduce nasal congestion during pregnancy:



Take steam

Steam or water vapor can help the congested nose run and clear up. It can also be very soothing for you. To try this remedy, you can use a washcloth dipped in hot water and breathe into it. Or stay in the steamy shower stall after taking a warm shower.

Sleep with extra pillows

Raising your head with extra pillows when sleeping can also prevent the accumulation of fluid in your nose. This technique can also relieve heartburn.

Stay away from irritants

It is better to avoid allergens and potential irritants during pregnancy. These may include cigarette smoke, paint, alcohol, chemical fumes or anything else you are allergic to.

Use a saline nasal spray

Saline nasal drops or sprays can temporarily relieve your symptoms.

Moisturize the air around

Using a humidifier to moisturize the air around you can also work. However, you must keep the machine clean and change its water daily to prevent any accumulation of bacteria into it.


Sometimes exercising can also relieve nasal decongestion; but be sure to exercise indoors or away from other irritants in the outdoor air.

Watch a video to learn how to clear a stuffed nose without medication:

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