Can a woman develop allergies when she is pregnant?
All individuals can develop allergies at some point in their lives, and they're commonly experienced in pregnancy due to the numerous changes taking place in the body to accommodate the fetus. Adult-onset allergies can occur anytime though, especially in situations where a move occurs which exposes you to a host of potential allergens you may not have come into contact with before.
If I'm already suffering from allergies, can the symptoms worsen during pregnancy?
As the fetus and womb grow, the diaphragm is displaced causing changes associated with the respiratory system such as more rapid breathing. There is also a decrease in factors such as diffusion capacity and residual volume, and an increase in other aspects such as tidal volume. All of these changes in respiration in addition to the changes in the function of the immune system can cause the mother's allergy or asthma symptoms to worsen.
It's also estimated that nasal symptoms, enough to cause annoyance in the day to day function, appears in over 30% of pregnant women due to the changes in nasal blood flow and mucous producing glands. Have those tissues handy!
Can my diet cause the infant to develop allergies?
Current research and guidelines suggest that a woman have a more diverse diet in order to reduce the risk of subsequent allergies in the infant's life, as well as conditions such as asthma, atopic eczema, wheezing, or allergic rhinitis. This lifestyle should not only be confined to pregnancy and should continue through the growth of the little one.
A study looked at food diversity during infancy and determined that by 6 months of age, infants with a less diverse diet was associated with an increased risk of hay fever. By 12 months, those same infants were now at a higher risk for asthma, hay fever, and episodes of wheezing.
In addition, it's important to ensure that your vitamin D levels are adequate throughout the pregnancy. This particular vitamin has been shown to play a role in the immune response, especially in response to food allergies. Research has demonstrated that almost all cells of the adaptive immune system carry the vitamin D receptor on their surface. However, its exact role in preventing allergic diseases is unclear but under investigation.
The following suggestions may help you handle those nuisance allergies during pregnancy:
DO – avoid triggers such as pet dander, dust, or pollen depending on your existing allergies. Adding a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is a great way to clean the indoor air and reduce the number of allergens that you are exposed to. The cleaner air may even ensure you aren't waking up to sneeze throughout the night and getting the rest that you deserve...especially considering that after you welcome your new baby...sleep will be a thing of the past.
DO – avoid exposure to tobacco smoke. Second-hand smoke has teratogenic effects, a word indicating that the agent has properties that cause mutations or abnormalities in the fetus. Second-hand smoke can cause preterm labour, spontaneous abortion, and lower birth weight of the infant which in itself is associated with a higher risk of complications or mortality.
DON'T – avoid foods due to a fear of creating allergies. As examined earlier, it's important to have a diet rich in foods from a variety of cultures and geographic locations.
DO – increase your dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that mothers with a low intake of omega-3 fatty acids produced infants more prone to eczema. The protective effect of the omega-3 continues into adolescence, reducing the worry that a child develop eczema upon entering the hormonal storm known as puberty.
DO – utilize symptomatic relief when needed. As noted, exposure to allergens during pregnancy may actually induce some protection in the infant. Allergy Relief is a homeopathic preparation of a variety of ingredients, including plants from the Asteraceae family, one of the most common flowering families in Canada. Those taking this product, whether in tabs (including junior), drops, or a nasal spray experienced an 88.5% improvement in their allergy symptoms. As it's a homeopathic preparation, the product is safe for pregnant and nursing mothers.
DON'T – avoid those peanuts if you're not allergic! This may help encourage the fetus to respond normally to the food following birth.
DON'T – consume alcohol. While this one should be obvious based on the extensive research into fetal alcohol syndrome, it bears repeating in the context of allergies during pregnancy. The liquid can induce higher levels of immunoglobulin E, the antibody that overreacts to allergens and contributes to the allergic symptoms.
DO – add probiotics to your diet as the guidelines from the World Allergy Organization indicate probiotic supplementation can reduce the risk of developing eczema in high-risk mothers.
DON'T – force yourself to sleep on your back. Raising your head by approximately 30 degrees can help alleviate congestion and increase the airflow through the nostrils.