When I was trying to conceive, it got to the point where I was obsessing over every little symptom and hoping it meant I was pregnant. I searched online for all of the bizarre pregnancy symptoms that I could possibly be watching for. So, one September when I caught a random cold a week or so before I was supposed to start my period, of course I Googled, “Is a cold a sign of implantation?” Odd as it may sound, many of my friends told me they caught a random cold right before they found out they were pregnant. I found some information online with conflicting answers saying it does happen, and some that claimed it doesn’t. Since it turned out I was pregnant, I needed to know: Was my stuffy nose and sneezing an early sign of pregnancy?
Is a stuffy nose an early sign of pregnancy?
Many experts believe that catching a cold or having flu-like symptoms right before getting a positive pregnancy test can be a sign of conception. Why? Hormonal changes that occur in early pregnancy may cause membranes inside your nose to swelling. “While not every woman will experience this, it affects enough women to have its own name: pregnancy rhinitis,” explains Sarah Wohlman, a certified midwife and nurse practitioner, tells Romper. “Women have different early signs of pregnancy — some women feel very tired, some have decreased libidos, some are more emotional, others have cravings early on. A lot of those things are hormonal and will affect each woman in a different way.”
This theory is pretty well known, and a stuffy nose can certainly can be a symptom of pregnancy agrees Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, OB-GYN.
Roughly “20 to 30% of pregnant women develop symptoms of nasal congestion in pregnancy,” Dr. Alice Sutton, M.D., FACOG, assistant clinical professor of OB-GYN and reproductive science at UC San Diego, tells Romper. And if no other cause can be found, such as seasonal allergies, it’s likely pregnancy rhinitis. “The mucosa (lining) of the upper respiratory tract (including the nose) has increased blood flow during pregnancy which can cause the congestion symptoms,” she explains. “These symptoms can start in the first trimester, as hormone levels rise in response to pregnancy. I don’t think that the congestion would be present at the time of implantation, but certainly it could develop in the first trimester.”
Does pregnancy make you more susceptible to colds?
To top off those runny nose feelings, I also feel like I’ve had this cold my entire pregnancy. Apparently I'm not alone. “Your hormones cause you to produce more mucus when you are pregnant,” Glory Guerrero, a nurse practitioner, explains. “Everyone is different — some women produce more mucus than others. It depends on your immune system and hormone levels. The amount of mucus produced will vary from one woman to the next.”
A stuffy nose can happen any time during your pregnancy, but it’s usually early on, she adds. “The hormones in your body are now producing extra saliva, [which] affects the amount and thickness of mucus in your membranes, so you may experience more congestion.” Not to mention, when you’re pregnant your immune system overall is weaker, making you more susceptible to a cold or flu.
“All in all, the lesson here is cold or flu-like symptoms are not necessarily a confirmation of a positive pregnancy test or a negative one,” Wohlman says. “If you experience these symptoms, either wait to see if you miss your period or if the discomfort is too high, go see your medical provider.”
So, symptoms of a common cold or flu don’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant. But they could. Especially when paired alongside other common pregnancy symptoms like a missed period, breast tenderness, or morning sickness. And if you’re really unsure or concerned, reach out to your health care provider.
Sarah Wohlman, certified midwife and nurse practitioner with Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida
Dr. Alice Sutton, M.D., FACOG, assistant clinical professor of OB-GYN and reproductive science at UC San Diego
Glory Guerrero, nurse practitioner with Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida
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