There are plenty of body changes to anticipate during pregnancy—a growing belly chief among them, of course. But…a growing nose? According to some people who have been pregnant, it can be a baffling side effect. And it’s causing lots of chatter on social media, thanks to a slew of people posting before-and-after photos of their “pregnancy nose” on TikTok.
In one video that’s received more than 44,000 likes, TikTok user @mamba.basa shared a “before” photo, noting that she thought she would look “so cute” during pregnancy. The video then flips to a second photo, in which her face (and nose) look a bit different. The caption reads, “look at the size of my nose already… #pregnancynose.”
“My face got so swollen toward the end of my pregnancy,” fellow TikTok user @alexajoelenejacobson said in a video. She also shared a photo of her face “exactly a month” before she gave birth, with the caveat that the changes she experienced were not from weight gain. “This was from just purely swelling and all the water I was retaining,” she said. “My nose feels like it’s a whole inch wider. My face felt so tight.”
Of course, TikTok is packed with questionable health claims, so it’s understandable to have some doubts. Here’s the deal, according to experts.
Turns out, “pregnancy nose” is a real possibility.
If you’re talking to a doctor, they may call it “pregnancy rhinitis.” There isn’t a ton of research out there about this side effect, but one 2013 study found that 39% of the 117 pregnant people who participated in the research experienced it. Another older paper defines pregnancy rhinitis as “nasal congestion in the last six or more weeks of pregnancy, without other signs of respiratory tract infection and with no known allergic cause”—but the appearance of your nose may change at any point in pregnancy, Christine Greves, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando, tells SELF.
For example, your nose may appear larger or it may look swollen and puffy. It may even feel stuffy or blocked up, kind of like what you’d experience with flaring allergies or a cold, Linda N. Lee, MD, FACS, a physician at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Facial and Cosmetic Surgery Center and an assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Harvard Medical School, tells SELF.
The exact cause of “pregnancy nose” is up in the air, but experts have some solid theories.
It’s not totally surprising to experience swelling in unexpected places during pregnancy because the body is producing a lot more blood and fluid to support the fetus’s needs. “The body wants to increase blood flow to the uterus,” Dr. Lee says, but all that extra fluid needs to go somewhere, which can include the nasal passages. There’s also “relaxation of the blood vessels” that can happen due to an increase of the hormone progesterone in the body during pregnancy—and that “can result in the nose appearing a little larger,” Dr. Greves says. Placental growth hormone (PGH), which is produced and secreted by the placenta during pregnancy, may also be involved.
You can’t stop pregnancy nose (or any other swelling) from happening—but it won’t last forever.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a miracle product or massage technique that will totally reduce nasal or facial swelling during pregnancy, Dr. Greves says. But if you’re dealing with annoying congestion in addition to that swelling, Dr. Lee says using a saline nasal spray can help clear up the stuffiness—just make sure you discuss this with your doctor first.
The good news: Pregnancy swelling won’t last forever. Some research suggests it can take as little as two weeks after giving birth for pregnancy rhinitis to resolve itself, but Dr. Greves says the amount of time it takes to get back to “normal” can vary from person to person, from a few weeks to six months—meaning, your nose should return to its usual size by then or (hopefully) sooner.