When you’re pregnant, even the most minor ailments can seem especially disheartening. You’re already in pain from your baby bump, so the added stress of any illnesses or complications can make you feel like you’d rather just stay in bed all day. A stuffy nose and congestion are common during pregnancy, and many women become frustrated with the symptoms. It’s common because of the increase in your blood volume and therefore the increase in your blood vessels, but that certainly doesn’t make it any less inconvenient and uncomfortable. When you become congested during your pregnancy, you might be tempted to try a nasal spray such as Afrin.

Whether or not nasal sprays are safe during pregnancy is still up for debate in the medical field. Currently, they are classified as a “C” medication for pregnancy, meaning they aren’t totally harmless. However, they are only recommended when your doctor decides that the medication’s benefits will outweigh the risks. So, you shouldn’t self-prescribe such sprays during your pregnancy, but you should speak with your doctor about them if you feel that they might be necessary. Nasal sprays such as Afrin contain oxmetazoline. According to recent studies, oxmetazoline constricts the blood vessels in the nose to reduce congestion. It works well for that purpose, but it might also constrict blood vessels elsewhere in the body. When blood vessels are constricted during pregnancy, the flow of nutrients through the placenta could be inhibited, so your baby might not get the oxygen and food supply that he or she needs. Clearly, the repeated use of such a medication can be detrimental to your baby’s development and overall health.

While experts have not necessarily prohibited the use of all nasal sprays in pregnant women, it’s impossible to say whether they are truly safe or not for a baby’s growth and development in utero. For that reason, you should discuss them with your doctor in detail if you feel that you need to use one. If he says it’s safe as a temporary solution, he might monitor your usage closely, as they can make the problem worse in some cases. If you’re not comfortable using a nasal spray for your congestion, there are alternatives. You could try a neti pot or a spray made purely from saline solution. Both can help clear your nasal passageways without adding any medication to your system or constricting your blood vessels.

Source: Elizabeth Neville Regan: Diagnosing Rhinitis. The Nurse Practitioner Volume 33 Issue 9 pp. 24-26 August 2008