Sinus Headache during Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

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A pregnant woman who suffers from a sinus headache

Introduction

Headaches are very common among pregnant women. These headaches may be caused by tension, fatigue, emotional or physical stress, increased hunger during pregnancy, overheating, allergies, or sinus congestion.

The subsequent sinus headaches and congestion during pregnancy have something to do with the hormonal changes occurring in a pregnant woman’s body. The body produces more estrogen during pregnancy. In effect, it causes swelling in the mucus lining of the nose and can even produce more mucus. There is also an increase in the amount of blood in the body. The blood vessels located in the lining of the nose could swell and lead to congestion in the surrounding tissue. Sinusitis in pregnant women also believed to be caused by progesterone, a hormone that causes swelling in the linings of the sinuses.
When the linings of the sinuses are inflamed due to the increase in production of mucus, blockages occur making it hard for mucus to drain properly. This occurrence can cause an infection or sinusitis. The blocked sensation of sinus infection can cause headaches and pain around the forehead, eyes, and cheeks.

Pregnancy-related congestion starts in the first trimester of pregnancy, usually in the second month. The congestion gets worse in the later parts of pregnancy. The congestion is reduced once a pregnant woman gives birth and the congestion is usually gone after 2 weeks.

Congestion is a temporary state but it can have some undesirable effects. Sinus headaches are one of the effects of congestion. When an individual is congested, the sinuses do not work properly. Mucus blocks the sinuses. The build-up creates pressure. The build-up is painful and it causes headaches.

Causes of Sinus Infection during Pregnancy

Sinusitis during pregnancy is triggered by a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection. In other instances, it can be a complication of a common cold. A sinus infection can also be brought about by allergies. Whether it’s colds or allergies that are causing the sinus infection, both conditions allow the mucus to block the sinus cavities and cause inflammation and swelling.

Symptoms of Sinus Infection during Pregnancy

Although sinus infection may start during the first trimester of pregnancy, it can actually develop at any point during the entire pregnancy. The symptoms of a sinus infection that occur in women who are pregnant include:

Treatment of Sinus Infection during Pregnancy

It’s not recommended to take the medication that is usually prescribed for individuals who have sinus headaches such as aspirin and ibuprofen as these medications may have side effects that may affect the baby. There are some over the counter medications that are safe to be taken while pregnant. These medications are acetaminophen, antihistamines, decongestants, cough suppressants, and expectorants. It’s important to always consult your doctor before taking any of these medications even if they can be bought over the counter.

Home remedies are also effective in treating and easing the symptoms of a sinusitis and sinus headache. You can do the following home remedies at home:

  • Increase your fluid intake to loosen the mucus drainage, clear a runny nose, and ease a sore throat. You can drink water, decaf teas, citrus juices, or broth.
  • Use a hot compress and apply it on the forehead, cheeks, and nose to help soothe the pain and allow mucus to drain from the sinuses.
  • Use a salt-water nasal spray to wash out the nostrils and unblock the clogged nose.
    You can either use saline drops that can be bought at a pharmacy or make your own drops by mixing 1/8 teaspoon of salt, a pinch of baking soda, and a cup of warm water.
  • Try aromatherapy. It can help relieve sinus congestion and other symptoms of sinusitis but it won’t treat the cause. Put 2 drops of eucalyptus oil on a tissue and sniff it to clear the nasal passages. You can also add eucalyptus oil to a bowl of hot water and breathe in the steam while trapping the steam using a towel over your head.
  • Run a humidifier at night to clear the mucus and keep the nasal passages clear.
  • Elevate your head by sleeping with more than one pillow. Elevating the head hinders the mucus from accumulating in the sinuses at night.
  • Gargle with warm water and salt to soothe a sore throat.
  • Relax and try to rest as much as possible. Resting can strengthen the immune system and help fight the infection.

Prevention of Sinus Infection during Pregnancy

Taking Vitamin C helps boost the immune system but always check with your doctor what kind of vitamins you need to take and the amount that you are allowed to take.

Yogurt and some supplements contain probiotic lactobacillus that can also enhance the immune system.

Zinc helps in fighting infection but do not take zinc supplement unless prescribed by the doctor. It’s recommended to eat food that contains zinc such as eggs, fish, meat, cashew nuts, baked potatoes, wholemeal bread, lentils, and chickpeas.