Pregnancy Aftermath: New Allergies
Pregnancy brings with it a series of aches and ailments, but there’s one pregnancy side effect that not many people discuss: allergies. Both during and after pregnancy, many women experience symptoms of seasonal allergies for the first time in their lives. From scratchy throats, to runny noses, to coughs and asthma, these new allergies can vary in severity. If you’ve recently had a baby and are experiencing pesky allergy symptoms for the first time, pregnancy might be to blame!
The sudden onset of seasonal allergies postpartum can be blamed on pregnancy hormones. During pregnancy and postpartum, fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone can impact your body’s mast cells, which are responsible for allergic reactions and inflammation. Big shifts in hormones such as during pregnancy and postpartum can trigger new reactions to seasonal allergens.
Pregnancy also impacts a woman’s immune system, which is why new allergies may develop. During pregnancy, the immune system weakens and adapts to allow the body to react positively to the new genetic material of the fetus and placenta. Pregnancy also strengthens the part of the immune system that defends against infection, which might explain why allergies occur, since allergies are the response of an overactive immune system, when the body reacts to a non-threatening substance by attacking it as if it were a danger. Pregnancy hormones have a huge impact on the immune system!
Women with asthma might also report more severe breathing problems during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. High levels of the hormone progesterone can cause breathlessness and rapid breathing, which might trigger an asthma attack. If you suffer from asthma, be sure to talk to your doctor about the safest medication to take during pregnancy. It is important to treat asthma so the baby is not deprived of oxygen in the womb.
Will the mother’s allergies impact her growing baby? As long as a pregnant woman’s allergies are well-managed, her unborn baby is unlikely to experience any issues related to the allergies. If a mother suddenly develops new allergies, it doesn’t necessarily mean her baby will be born with these same allergies. However, if the mother or father has any ongoing allergies, this does automatically increase their child’s risk of developing allergies later on. Similar to environmental allergies, food allergies do not seem to be impacted by a mother’s behavior during pregnancy. A mother can consume a variety of foods during pregnancy, but this doesn’t guarantee that her baby will be free of food allergies or sensitivities. It is best to eat a healthy, varied diet during pregnancy - but not in an attempt to prevent food allergies in the growing fetus.
Allergies can also change due to pregnancy. About one-third of pregnant women find that their usual allergy symptoms clear up throughout the pregnancy! Another one-third of pregnant women find that their allergy symptoms become more severe during pregnancy. The other one-third of women report that their allergy symptoms remain the same. There isn’t any research to show why allergies vary so much between pregnant women, but if you are suffering from allergies during pregnancy, there are several safe treatments.
- Create an allergy-free oasis at home. Check the local pollen count where you live, and avoid going outside when the pollen levels are high. Dust and mold are also common allergy triggers, so be sure to keep your house clean and use air purifiers indoors. Keep doors and windows closed on windy days if pollen is a trigger for you. Animal dander can be another common allergen, and frequent vacuuming and opening windows can be helpful.
- Opt for non-medicated treatments. There are several non-medicated routes to take when handling allergies during pregnancy. Firstly, using a humidifier can help alleviate allergy symptoms by adding moisture to the air, which can soothe inflamed nasal passages. Second, you might try a saline spray (available over the counter at most pharmacies) to help loosen mucus and clean your nasal passages. If your allergies are triggered by outdoor allergens, wash your hands and face thoroughly when you return home, or take a shower.
- Consult a doctor about the safety of over-the-counter medications. Although there are many medications that are unsafe during pregnancy, there are several options for treating allergies safely during pregnancy. Antihistamine medications like Claritin and Zyrtec are safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Antihistamines are helpful in preventing an allergy response to common triggers. Always consult your doctor before starting any new medications during pregnancy.
- Try a nasal spray. Some doctors will recommend trying an intranasal steroid spray, which works by blocking inflammatory allergic substances. Since most of the medication stays in your nose and does not travel through the body, these sprays are generally considered safe for pregnancy - but always be sure to consult with your doctor before trying any new medications.
- Avoid certain treatments. Several decongestants and medications containing pseudoephedrine are usually not considered safe, especially within the first trimester. Women further along in their pregnancies might be able to try some medications under a doctor’s approval. Pregnant women should avoid herbal remedies and supplements, as they have not been proven safe for pregnancy.
If you are experiencing new or worsening allergies during and after pregnancy, don’t worry - you’re not alone. This strange side effect of changing hormones can cause allergy symptoms to spiral out of control. Always consult your doctor before starting any new medications, and opt for non-medicated allergy treatments as a first line of defense!
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Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.