Not every woman begins her first pregnancy knowing all the strange things she might experience in the coming months. One, sometimes surprising and usually quite irritating, symptom is nosebleeds – and they can become quite frequent in the latter half of pregnancy.
What causes nosebleeds in pregnancy?
Although they can be a right pain in terms of their habit of starting just at the wrong time (in a meeting or at the supermarket, for example), nosebleeds caused by pregnancy don't actually hurt. And in the vast majority of cases, they present no cause for alarm whatsoever, even though the sight of blood on your pillow when you wake can be a shock.
The reason why pregnant women are prone to nosebleeds is the presence of the pregnancy hormones oestrogen and progesterone, and their insistence on relaxing not only the bits of your body which will be required for labour, but almost every other bit as well – including the veins and capillaries.
While your blood vessels are dilating, they are also coming under increasing pressure from the extra blood your body is now producing (you might have as much as 50% more by the time you reach full term) – and the combination of these things increases the likelihood of the small and delicate vessels inside your nose breaking open.
What can I do?
There's obviously nothing you can do to prevent those hormones working their magic, but if you find nosebleeds are becoming a bit of a habit, there are a couple of things you can try to prevent them.
First of all, stay hydrated, because if the tender mucus membranes of your nose become dry, the capillaries are more likely to pop. You know you should be drinking plenty of fluids anyway, so keep an eye on that. Also, try putting some vaseline up your nose – it doesn't sound very pleasant, but actually it feels quite nice and it has a protective effect.
Try to avoid blowing your nose, if you can. Unfortunately, nose stuffiness is another common symptom pregnant women have to bear, but blowing puts additional pressure on the blood vessels. If you must blow your nose, just do so in short and very gentle bursts.
If you get a nosebleed, here are some tips to stem the flow:
• With a tissue if you like, firmly squeeze the end of your nose, just above the nostrils, so it closes. Keep this pressure up for 10 minutes.
• Don't tip your head back – it will make any blood drain down into your throat, which might make you feel sick. Instead, lean forward, breathing through your mouth.
• After 10 minutes, let go and see if the bleeding has stopped. If not, hold your nose again, for another 10 minutes and try placing an ice pack (frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel, for example) on the bridge of your nose too.
• Let go again, and see if the bleeding has stopped. If it hasn't, seek medical advice – go to your doctor or a walk-in clinic.
• If the bleeding has stopped, remain upright for a while – lying down is more likely to re-start the nosebleed because it increases pressure on the vessels.
• Don't blow your nose, or engage in any strenuous activity for at least 12 hours after the nosebleed.
If your nosebleeds are very frequent, or very heavy, or you can't stem the flow of blood after trying everything above, get medical advice. The good news is, like many other things which might trouble you along the way, you should be free of nosebleeds shortly after your baby is delivered. It's ALL worth it in the end!