Getting pregnant doesn’t stop your allergies — but it does change your options when it comes to what you can do or use to get some relief.
The first step when you are feeling your allergies act up is to make sure your healthcare provider is aware of the following: any allergies you currently have, any history of past allergies, whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, what tends to trigger your allergies, and the severity of symptoms. All this information is essential in receiving the right diagnosis, since sometimes allergies may look like asthma and vice versa.
Allergies that interfere with your ability to breathe may also disrupt the supply of air to your baby. They may also leave you lightheaded, which combined with the low blood pressure or the tendency to feel dizzy when quickly standing up that many pregnant women may experience, may leave you feeling unsteady on your feet or unable to work or drive. Together, you and your provider can create an action plan to safely relieve symptoms.
Some options to relieve allergies do not require medication, which brings a sigh of relief to many pregnant women who are hoping to avoid taking drugs. The first line of defense is avoiding allergens in the first place or finding ways to make them better. Some ideas include:
- Make sure your home or office is vacuumed often (preferably with a vacuum cleaner that uses a HEPA filter).
- Ban smoking indoors, and avoid lighting candles or wood fires.
- Use a higher quality filter in your home air conditioning unit, and make sure to change it once a month.
- If necessary, purchase a HEPA air purifier. Purifiers can help remove pollen and other allergy-inducing particulates from the air.
If you experience allergic symptoms, a saline nasal spray, which can ease nasal dryness and congestion, can be a lifesaver. A neti pot can be used to irrigate both nostrils with saline solution, and while the concept seems strange, most people who use them find them invaluable! If you use either of these methods, make sure your spray or neti pot are thoroughly cleaned after each use to prevent the risk of infection.
Unfortunately, for many people, these treatments are not enough to relieve symptoms. Be sure to talk with your physician about medication, whether over-the-counter or prescribed, before starting anything.
Your doctor can help determine the right dosage to help relieve your allergies while minimizing any potential risk to the fetus. If you’ve started allergy shots (e.g., immunotherapy) prior to becoming pregnant, your doctor may recommend continuing carefully controlled shots if they have been effective and do not cause adverse reactions. However, it is generally not recommended to start immunotherapy after becoming pregnant.
Pregnant women with asthma may be reluctant to use their rescue inhalers or maintenance medications, but poorly controlled asthma can be dangerous to both mother and unborn baby. You can read more about managing asthma in pregnancy here. The bottom line: it is far safer for pregnant women to take their asthma medication than to experience asthma attacks.
Pregnant women with asthma should inform their doctors of any change in their symptoms or severity. Asthma severity often does change during pregnancy, so let your doctor know if asthma symptoms begin to worsen.
Reviewed by Jennifer Lincoln, March 2020
- Talk to your doctor about allergies before trying any treatments.
- Non-drug solutions like neti pots and saline spray can help many women.
- There are acceptable medications, but clear it with your doctor first.
- It’s not recommended to start immunotherapy shots while pregnant, but you may continue existing therapy.