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Why women have ‘pregnancy noses’

There are several reasons a pregnant woman’s nose enlarges, one being facial edema. [Courtesy]

Have you ever wondered why pregnant women have bigger noses? Well, most experience swollen noses when the universe conspires to use them as vessels to bring life into the world. Nursing bigger noses brings with it self-esteem challenges while others make fun of the situation to cope. Still, others claim the swelling of the nose is indicative of the baby’s gender.

Radio Maisha mid-morning presenter Gathoni Njuguna recalls that no sooner had she gained some pregnancy glow in 2018 than her nose “decided to have a life of its own”. She decided to make fun of it on social media, saying she could even smell the sins people had not committed.

Gathoni became ‘nosy’ after five months but “it took like three months before it went back to normal after giving birth. I did not believe that was my nose, but what do you do?”

American model and television personality Chrissy Tiegen also made fun of her nose during her second pregnancy in 2018.

“Damn! My pregnancy nose is huge,” she posted on her Instagram page. “My nose has its own BMI. How you gonna gain weight in your nose? This is fascinating.”

But not all women resort to sarcasm and jokes. Magdalena Wangari’s self-esteem took a blow and she kept asking her partner if she was pretty and if he still found her attractive. Despite his reassurances that she was still sexy, she only left the house only when she had a mask on.

“The pandemic was a blessing during my pregnancy,” she says.

There are several reasons a pregnant woman’s nose enlarges, one being facial edema. This is the accumulation of fluids in tissues, mostly in feet, hands and face, which causes them to swell, especially in the third trimester.

Experts recommend checkups to rule out preeclampsia, a condition in which excessive swelling is brought about by high blood pressure and high levels of protein in urine.

 Dr Fredrick Kairithia, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, explains that the swelling of the nose is caused by hormonal changes.

“The swelling can be caused by congestion of the nose that is caused by hormones during pregnancy or increase of blood volume,” he says. “However, it is not everyone who gets the swelling.”

Dr Jamil Abdur-Rahman, an American gynaecologist told romper.com in May 2019 that being ‘nosy’ is caused by “elevated circulating hormone levels” as pregnancy hormones like estrogen and progesterone cause smooth muscles to relax, meaning that a bigger nose is a sign of a healthy pregnancy.

Dr Kairithia also insists on differentiating between a normal swelling and one that can cause an alarm.

“Swelling of the feet is what we call a danger sign; the swelling could be a symptom of high blood pressure or alarming blood levels.”

According to Junior F. Mukudi, a health systems specialist and health care advocate, “swellings are common during pregnancy and are caused by extra fluids in the body”.

She, however, says that anything that causes discomfort should worry a pregnant woman, including if a swollen nose affects her breathing.

Excessive swelling, like of feet, can be prevented by avoiding too much salt in food, processed foods and caffeine and ensuring one goes for regular check-ups.

Check-ups are recommended to ensure the blood pressure is normal.

However, having extra fluids does not mean that a pregnant woman should reduce water intake; hydration is important, in order to form the amniotic fluid, enhance digestion, produce extra blood and also to flash out waste and toxins.