I got the two worst colds of my life while I was pregnant. With my first pregnancy, I felt like doom the entire first trimester. Not only could I not eat, I couldn't breathe through my nose, my head was throbbing, and I was sleepier than I'd ever been. It felt like I'd been hit with a semi-truck in the face. At the time, I chalked it up to an incredible run of bad luck in my pregnancy, unrelated to my baby. But, is a really bad cold a sign of pregnancy that I was missing?
As it turns out, some women develop a condition called "allergic rhinitis" or "pregnancy-related rhinitis." While the exact cause remains unknown, according to Advances in Experimental Medical Biology, it is theorized that it happens when the hormones that are secreted with pregnancy adversely affect the nasal passages. The symptoms are runny nose, sneezing, and congestion. This, coupled with the other symptoms of early pregnancy, such as fatigue and nausea, can give the overall appearance of a really bad cold, when it is in fact just the side effects of pregnancy for some of the population. According to Clinical Practice, some women might also experience migraine or tension headaches related to pregnancy early in the first trimester, compounding the mimicry of cold symptoms.
This time of year, colds are abundant. No one is leaving the house, and if they do, they meet up in areas that are just chock-full of other people who haven't seen the light of day in months. It's just a cesspool out there, folks. Suffice it to say, getting a cold this time of year wouldn't shock you. However, if you're trying to get pregnant, and you're examining your symptoms, you might wonder if a really bad cold is a sign of pregnancy or a sign that Uncle Jim didn't sanitize his hands before he made those deviled eggs. As someone who's done the TTC thing for years at a time, I understand your irritation with anything that might throw off your pregnancy self-tarot-ing. (It's a thing.)
I spoke with family nurse practitioner Sara Ledman of Utah to ask her about the relation of colds to pregnancy. She tells Romper, "It certainly could be, but it could just as easily be a false flag." She notes that while rhinitis is a very real thing, and pretty common, so are colds. "The common cold is common for a reason. It's really easy to get, and the severity of the strains vary widely."
So you're saying there's a chance?
"Rhinitis can happen at any point in the pregnancy, but the fatigue and headaches hit the ground running with the first drip of pregnancy hormones into your system." She says not everyone gets the headaches, but almost everyone gets that bone crushing fatigue of early pregnancy. Nice to know I'm not alone in my "Can't do it. Pregnancy is drawing me back beneath the covers" attitude I own for the first 12 weeks.
Ledman went on to tell Romper, "The symptoms of GERD can look like a sore throat too, and many pregnant women get pretty dang awful GERD." She says that while it's more common in the third trimester, hormones are tricky actors, and that GERD, also known as reflux, may pop up at any time. Ledman explains that while it might be a sign of pregnancy, if you get a fever or if you are feeling really run-down this time of year, it might be the flu, and it needs to be treated immediately, especially if you're pregnant. "Some colds come with a fever, but this time of year, it needs to be addressed by a professional."
The only way to know if you're pregnant for certain is with a test, but if you know you are pregnant, know that your runny nose might not be going away any time soon, and if you're feeling particularly bad, please see your provider.
As for relief, Ledman says, "Anything that will open up your nasal passages is encouraged. Oddly, the best treatment for fatigue and rhinitis I've seen is exercise." She says it might feel counterintuitive to work out when you're dog tired, but it gets your blood pumping and floods your system with endorphins. As for the headaches, Ledman says water should be your BFF. "Dehydration can make their symptoms much worse, making you feel like crap."
Exercising when I'm tired, and drinking something that isn't coffee or tea isn't my idea of a good time, but I could swing it I think. Maybe you could, too.
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