A friend of mine recently got a nosebleed while driving. It was gushing, and she was at a stoplight rooting around for napkins, tissues, anything to stop the bleeding! Why did this suddenly happen? Well, turns out she was newly pregnant and nosebleeds during pregnancy are a sign of pregnancy.

Weird, huh?! Let’s talk more about nosebleeds during pregnancy, including:

How to Stop a Nosebleed

If you get a nosebleed during pregnancy, the first thing you need to know is how to stop the flow. And if your only idea of how to stop a nosebleed comes from the movies, you’ve probably got it all wrong.

  • Don’t lay down or tilt your head back:Doing so sends blood down the back of your nose and throat and into your esophagus. You could cough or choke, or even vomit up the blood.
  • Don’t shove wads of tissue up your nose: It backs up the blood, sending it down your throat. This causes the same problems as tilting your head back.

So what should you do to stop nosebleeds during pregnancy?

  1. Don’t panic! Staying calm will help you manage the nosebleed.
  2. Lean forward or remain upright.
  3. Don’t swallow any blood in your mouth. Spit it out instead.
  4. Find the soft part of your nose, beneath the bony bump in the middle, and pinch.
  5. Time yourself. Pinch for 10 minutes—no peeking to see if the nosebleed has stopped.
  6. If it’s been 10 to 20 minutes and the nosebleed hasn’t stopped, call your doctor.

For 24 hours after a nosebleed stops, don’t lift anything heavy, don’t pick your nose, and don’t blow your nose really hard. You should also refrain from drinking anything hot—this could cause the blood vessels to dilate.

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Are Nosebleeds Common in Early Pregnancy?

Once you’ve stopped the bleeding and reeled from the shock, you may wonder if a nosebleed is a common symptom of pregnancy. Though not often talked about, nosebleeds during pregnancy are very common.

In one study performed by Northwestern University, 20 percent of pregnant women experienced nosebleeds while pregnant, while only six percent of women experience them normally.

What Causes Nosebleeds During Pregnancy?

Though unpleasant no matter how you cut it, it may be reassuring to learn that nosebleeds during pregnancy are caused by normal bodily changes and aren’t usually anything to worry about.

Hormones

It’s the same reason some women experience stuffy noses or bleeding gums in pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone, increase blood flow to all of your body’s mucous membranes. Why? Mucous membranes line your uterus, and estrogen maintains and thickens that lining for a growing baby. Progesterone helps your uterus and breasts expand while pregnant.

Increased blood volume

As amazing as they are, our bodies can’t direct a hormone to just one place. If a hormone rises, it will affect other parts of your body. The combination of raging hormones and a pregnant woman’s increased blood volume puts pressure on the delicate vessels in your nose and causes them to rupture more easily.

Dehydration

A nosebleed might also be a sign that you’re dehydrated. When you’re pregnant, your body needs more water—at least 10 cups per day. When your body becomes dehydrated, the mucous membranes in your nose can dry up and crack. If that happens, they can begin to bleed.

Are Nosebleeds During Pregnancy Dangerous?

A few nosebleeds during pregnancy isn’t a cause for concern. Still, you should alert your healthcare provider if you have recurrent nosebleeds during pregnancy. Though rare, high blood pressure (a warning sign of preeclampsia) or clotting disorders can cause repeated nosebleeds.

You should also call your healthcare provider if:

  • The bleeding doesn’t stop after 30 minutes of pressure
  • The blood flow is extremely heavy
  • You have trouble breathing because of the bleeding
  • The bleeding causes fatigue, lightheadedness, or disorientation
  • You turn pale from the bleeding
  • You have chest pain

How to Prevent Nosebleeds During Pregnancy

While it’s great to know how to stop a nosebleed while pregnant, it’s even better to prevent one in the first place. Here are a few simple, easy, and healthy things to incorporate into your day to prevent nosebleeds during pregnancy.

Keep mucous membranes moist

  1. Hydrate. Aim for at least 10 cups of water each day.
  2. Try a nasal spray. 
  3. Use a cool mist humidifier to battle cold, dry air.

Take care of your nose

  1. Blow your nose gently.
  2. Keep your mouth open when you sneeze (cover it with a tissue) to distribute the pressure.
  3. Use a neti pot to keep nostrils and sinuses clear.
  4. Don’t pick your nose.

Be good to your body

  1. Eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as kiwis, strawberries, and bell peppers. Vitamin C strengthens the blood vessels, making them less prone to bursting.
  2. Try camu camu powder, which has 50 percent more vitamin C than oranges.
  3. Eat foods rich in vitamin K, which helps with clotting. Leafy greens contain plenty of vitamin K, plus they’re high in folate, another essential vitamin for pregnancy.

Remember…

Nosebleeds during pregnancy are generally more of an inconvenience than a cause for alarm. Try not to panic.

If bleeding persists despite your best efforts to stop it, call your healthcare provider or visit the emergency room. If nosebleeds during pregnancy are frequent, talk to your healthcare provider—they can rule out any complications.