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Pregnancy Problems

Sinusitis During Pregnancy

Do you have a sinus infection and wonder how it's going to affect baby? We'll tell you how to treat it and how to keep you and baby healthy.

What is sinusitis during pregnancy?

Sinusitis is just a fancy name for a sinus infection. It happens when your sinuses become inflamed and swollen, and mucus can’t drain properly. It’s bad enough when you’re not pregnant, but it’s even worse when you are pregnant because it’s hard to tell whether the symptoms are caused by an actual infection or just your hormones.

What are the signs of sinusitis?

You may see some yellow or greenish discharge (yuck!) from your nose. You also might have trouble breathing through your nose, feel pain and pressure around your face and have a bad cough, and your senses of smell and taste might not seem to be working so well — sounds like fun, huh? Other symptoms include earaches, headaches, sore throat and fatigue.

Are there any tests for sinusitis?

Your doctor may give you a nasal endoscopy to see what’s going on inside your nose. If she suspects that allergies are the culprit, you may be tested for them.

How common is sinusitis during pregnancy?

It can be more common during pregnancy. The tricky thing about dealing with sinus issues is figuring out whether they're pregnancy-related. That's because pregnancy can cause the blood vessels and membranes in your nose to swell (yep, it’s not just your ankles), making it tough to breathe through your nose — even if you're not sick at all. But luckily, even if you are sick, most sinus infections do go away with time. The important thing to figure out is whether your symptoms are caused by pregnancy or an actual infection, so be sure to talk to your doctor.

How did I get sinusitis?

Along with all the crazy things pregnancy does to the blood vessels and membranes in your nose, you can get sinusitis from viral, bacterial and fungal infections. If you have allergies (like hay fever), you may have an increased risk of getting sinusitis.

How will sinusitis affect my baby?

Luckily, it won’t affect baby. But make sure you’re still getting enough vitamins and nutrients and resting so you can recover ASAP.

What’s the best way to treat sinusitis during pregnancy?

If your symptoms are just pregnancy-related, saline nose drops and running a humidifier at home can help you feel more comfortable. Those treatments also can help if you're sick with a sinus infection, but you'll probably have to wait it out. The exception is a bacterial infection, which will likely be accompanied by fever and possibly yellow or green mucus; for that, your doctor may prescribe a pregnancy-safe antibiotic.

Before you take any medicine, check with your doctor. Things like Sudafed and Actifed are usually fine for most pregnant women to take for a short period of time (though not all doctors recommend them), but if you have certain medical conditions, like hypertension, you should avoid them.

What can I do to prevent sinusitis during pregnancy?

Stay as healthy as you can during pregnancy by avoiding contact with people who have colds. Try to avoid environments with bad air quality (like being around smokers or polluted air). If you have allergies, make sure you’re taking care of them. You can also use a humidifier to ward against any infections.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have sinusitis?

“Do you remember that commercial where the lady’s head blows up like a balloon? That’s how I feel — so much sinus pressure, it feels like it’s going to pop. I stayed in bed all day long to recover.”

“The sinus pain I’m having now is worse than labor with my son. But my doctor put me on Augmentin. Been on it a day and a half, and the pain is slightly better.”

“I found that a vaporizer soothed it, along with Sudafed and staying propped up.”

Are there any other resources for sinusitis?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Plus more from The Bump:

What medications are safe to use? 

Headaches During Pregnancy 

Sick of Being Sick 

By Laura Riley, MD, ob-gyn, Director of Labor and Delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of You & Your Baby: Pregnancy