According to Lisa Rodriguez, R.N., contributing writer for the Dr. Spock website, sinus pain and infection are common pregnancy ailments. The hormones responsible for vaginal swelling also cause the lining of nasal passages and sinus cavities to swell, a condition called sinusitis. Increased swelling prevents nasal passages from draining properly, and this back-up of fluid can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria. The result is a painful sinus infection.
The four major sinus cavities are hollow, air-filled sacs located in your forehead, behind your cheekbones, between your eyes and behind your eyes. Sinuses help to insulate the skull and reduce its weight. Sinuses also give your voice resonance, or the quality of its sound. In relation to your health, your sinuses contain defenses to help protect against germs.
Causes of Sinus Pain
Sinus pain is often the result of a proliferation of bacteria from the nasal passages. But fungi and environmental pollutants, such as smog, allergies or secondhand smoke, can also irritate sinuses. Sometimes, sinus infections are the result of an upper respiratory infection that has spread.
Sinus pain is a classic symptom of sinusitis. You might feel pressure around the eyes, nose, cheeks and forehead. You’re also likely to experience either a localized headache on one side of your head or more generalized pain throughout. Cough and fever are also common symptoms of sinusitis. An increase of thick nasal secretions and post-nasal drip can make your throat red and irritated, and open-mouth breathing can make your breath smell bad. You might also feel more tired than usual, experience pain in your teeth and notice vision disturbances.
Treatment of Sinus Pain when Pregnant
If your sinus pain is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, your physician will most likely prescribe an oral antibiotic. Rodriguez explains that medications are classified according to their risk to the developing fetus. Most antibiotics are safe to use during pregnancy and show no adverse side effects to the baby or pregnancy. If your sinus pain is caused by a virus, environmental pollutants or allergies, the most you can do is relieve the symptoms and wait for the infection to resolve. To feel better, increase your fluid intake and relieve sinus pain and fever with acetaminophen. To help clear nasal passages, take a steamy shower and use over-the-counter (OTC) saline drops. However, do not use decongestant drops unless prescribed from your physician. Not only do decongestants constrict blood vessels in the nose, they shrink the vessels of the placenta, as well. Finally, if lying down increases the pressure in your head, sleep in a semi-upright position.
If left untreated, sinus infections can cause serious health problems. Secondary sinus infections that arise due to severe illness can cause the eyelids to swell and droop, resulting in loss of eye mobility or blindness. Fixed or dilated pupils, in addition to a swelled eyelid, could indicate a blood clot. In rare cases, bacteria can travel to the brain resulting in impaired personality, seizures, altered consciousness and even death.