Pain When Sneezing During Pregnancy: Seven Ways To Alleviate

Published July 13th, 2022 by Bridget Reed
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley
Medically Reviewed:
Camille Freking

Everyday activities become a little complicated when you’re pregnant.

Common occurrences, like sneezing or coughing, can cause you pain, place a significant strain on your bladder, and make you wonder if what you are experiencing is normal or not. 

If you've been suffering from pain every time you sneeze, there’s most likely no need to panic.

We’ll address the cause of the pain, why you might be sneezing more, and what you can do to get relief. 

Why Does It Hurt When I Sneeze While Pregnant?

Sneezing is one thing, but when there is pain associated with it, it can make you worried and uncomfortable.

Sneezing is a natural response to an irritant in your nasal passages, but pregnant people may feel pain when they sneeze.

What Does Sneezing Pain Feel Like?

Most pregnant people who experience pain with sneezing describe a sharp, shooting pain that radiates along the sides of the abdomen or just beneath it.

The pain may feel like a surge or shock, lasts only a second or two, and immediately goes away after you have finished sneezing. 

What Causes Sneezing Pain?

The underlying cause of sneezing pain when pregnant is likely round ligament pain.

Two large, rope-like ligaments support your uterus. These ligaments connect below your uterus, near the pelvis. 

As your uterus expands to accommodate your pregnancy, these ligaments stretch. Because your uterus expands rapidly during pregnancy, the ligaments may feel tight, resulting in sharp, shooting pains (especially if you sneeze).

pregnant woman in pain when sneezing

Who Gets Sneezing Pain When Pregnant?

Having pain when you sneeze or cough is a normal symptom during pregnancy. Not everyone will experience these pains. If you do, you may not have them your entire pregnancy. 

Most frequently, sneezing pain while pregnant happens during the end of the second trimester and through the third trimester as your baby grows larger, exerting more pressure on your ligaments and pelvis. 

What Causes Sneezing During Pregnancy?

It can seem like you are sneezing more frequently while pregnant, especially if you get an accompanying buzz of pain every time you do.

There are a few reasons why you might sneeze more when you are pregnant. 

Pregnancy Rhinitis

Pregnancy rhinitis is a condition that causes the mucous membranes that line the nose to become inflamed while you are pregnant.

Pregnancy rhinitis can cause you to sneeze more but can also cause additional symptoms like:  

  • Runny nose
  • Post nasal drip
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Difficulty breathing or sleeping

You may feel like you have allergies that won’t go away or an oncoming cold.

Pregnancy rhinitis is common and does not negatively impact your pregnancy. The cause of pregnancy rhinitis is not clear but is probably related to hormonal changes. 

Allergies

Most people don’t plan their pregnancies so precisely as to ensure they aren’t pregnant when they are likely to have more allergy flare-ups.

As such, it’s common to have allergy attacks while pregnant that can lead to increased sneezing. 

Allergies can be complicated during pregnancy because you may not be able to use the same medications to combat symptoms.

Although it can seem dangerous, studies show that allergies do not threaten your pregnancy; they simply make you more uncomfortable. 

If you have a history of severe allergies or asthma, discuss it with your doctor. 

Sickness

It seems unfair to catch a cold while pregnant, but you are even more likely to become ill while pregnant than when you are not.

This is because of a process that helps your immune system adjust and protect your baby. 

If you are sick with a cold or flu, you’ll likely experience more sneezing, which could lead to pain, especially if you are past your first trimester. 

Seven Ways To Alleviate Pain From Sneezing

Pain during sneezing can make you anxious if you feel a sneeze coming on or feel yourself getting sick.

Here, we give you seven ways to relax and cope with the pain you experience from sneezing. 

First, Tackle the Sneezing

It can be challenging to alleviate cold and flu-like symptoms during pregnancy because many of the medications you rely on aren’t recommended for pregnancy.

Thankfully, there are some natural remedies you can try. 

  1. Use a humidifier. Using a humidifier keeps the air in your environment moist, which can help lubricate your nasal passages and reduce swelling, allowing you to breathe easier. 
  2. Invest in a neti pot. Also known as a sinus rinse, a neti pot flushes out your nasal passages with warm salt water, which can help remove mucus and alleviate the causes of sneezing. 
  3. Use an air purifier. If you know you suffer from indoor allergens, an air purifier can help remove them from the environment, helping you sneeze less and breathe easier. 
  4. Wear a pregnancy belt. Pregnancy support belts help hold your uterus and provide additional support to alleviate pressure on your pelvic floor, which can also help you avoid round ligament pain. 
  5. Prepare for a sneeze. Prepare for an oncoming sneeze by cushioning your belly against your legs, holding it with your hands, or lying on your side (if possible) to help reduce the stress on the round ligaments supporting your tendons. 
  6. Exercise. Staying active is part of a healthy pregnancy, as long as your doctor has given you the green light. Exercising can help boost your immune system and keep your muscles and ligaments loose and flexible. 
  7. Try a saline nasal spray. Similar to the way a neti pot works to reduce irritation and clear out nasal passages, a saline nasal spray can help clear sinus passages and help you avoid as much sneezing. 

If you’re still unable to avoid sneezing, you can try a few other remedies for dealing with round ligament pain. 

Getting Relief From General Round Ligament Pain

Sneezing isn’t the only cause of round ligament pain. Round ligament pain can happen anytime as your baby grows and your uterus expands. Here are five ways to help you cope. 

  1. Try prenatal yoga. Prenatal yoga is a specially designed yoga program that helps support your changing body, alleviate pain, and keep your body and tendons flexible. 
  2. Take a walk. In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight during your pregnancy, walking is a safe exercise that can increase oxygen to your muscles and help relax your body, thus making it more difficult for you to experience round ligament pain. 
  3. Take a warm bath. Relaxing in a warm tub can help give your ligaments and pelvic area a break from the added weight of pregnancy. Ensure your bath temperature is no higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit and that you only stay in for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  4. Change positions. Pregnancy sleeping is challenging, and some people experience round ligament pain when lying down. If you notice more pain at night, try sleeping in a different position (but avoid your back and stomach). You can also place a pillow between your legs to help alleviate pressure on your back. 
  5. Take breaks. If you work at a desk or stand, take breaks every hour. Remaining in one position for hours at a time can make round ligament pain worse. 

Although it can be frightening and painful, round ligament pain and the pain accompanying a sneeze are not usually signs of anything harmful to your pregnancy. 

When Should You See a Doctor?

Pregnancy is so full of constant changes, that it can be alarming to experience something new.

Pain while sneezing can be very common, but be sure to contact your doctor if you have pain while sneezing accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme headache
  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Persistent chest pain 
  • Coughs that produce green or yellow phlegm

These could be symptoms of a more serious issue.

Supporting a Healthy Pregnancy

Aches and pains are normal with every pregnancy, and everyone wonders if what they’re experiencing affects their baby. Thankfully, sneezing while pregnant isn’t cause for alarm. 

If you’re suffering from sharp, sneeze-related pains, try some of the methods above to get relief, and remember that these symptoms will go away once your baby is born. 

References, Studies and Sources:

Pregnancy Rhinitis: Relief for Ongoing Nasal Congestion Is Possible | Nationwide Childrens.org

The Influence of Asthma and/or Hay Fever on Pregnancy: Data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth | PubMed

Immune system changes during pregnancy are precisely timed | News Center | Stanford Medicine 

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