Struggling with an ear infection while pregnant? We look at symptoms and remedies and find out how to reduce the risk of infection in the first place.
Pregnancy is a wonderful and exciting time — but it also comes with some unexpected extras.
And perhaps one of the most unexpected is earache.
If you get an ear infection while pregnant, don’t despair.
Whether you’re keen to prevent an infection or you’re in pain and want it to stop right now, we’re here to help.
In this article: 📝
- Why are ear infections more likely during pregnancy?
- What causes an ear infection during pregnancy?
- How do I know if I have an ear infection?
- What should I do if I get an ear infection while pregnant?
- What can I take for an ear infection while pregnant?
- What home remedies can I take for an ear infection while pregnant?
- How can I prevent an ear infection?
- The bottom line on handling an ear infection while pregnant
Why are ear infections more likely during pregnancy?
For many years, the standard medical wisdom was that the immune system was suppressed during pregnancy.
The reasoning was that this happened to prevent it from identifying the fetus as an intruder and rejecting it.
But it also meant mamas-to-be were more likely to fall prey to various infections.
But more recent research has thrown that into doubt.
After all, keeping mama and baby safe during pregnancy is pretty important to the survival of the species!
So it seems more likely that there’s a delicate balancing act going on here.
On the one hand, your immune system can’t be allowed to attack your little peanut.
On the other, it has to be vigilant enough to protect you both from harm.
That means your immune system changes throughout your pregnancy.
And it does seem to result in an increased likelihood of some kinds of infection.
That’s particularly the case for infections relating to the ears, nose, and throat.
But it’s not just your changing immune system that could be behind your ear infection.
Other factors might be playing a part too:
During pregnancy, your basal metabolic rate — the rate at which you use energy while you’re resting — increases.
You have lots more blood and fluid in your body, and your heart has to work harder to move it around.
That means fluid is more likely to build up in parts of your body.
And if it happens in your ear, that could lead to infection.
More fluid in your sinuses
Those increased fluid levels can also cause other issues.
If fluid builds up in your sinuses, it can cause pain, a blocked nose, or — you’ve guessed it — an ear infection.
What causes an ear infection during pregnancy?
There could be a number of different factors that start an ear infection.
Allergies can be the culprit, especially during hay fever season.
The infection could relate to a cold or sinus problem.
Or it could result from a build-up of good old earwax.
That’s a bacterial infection carried in water.
And very rarely, some people can experience sudden hearing loss during pregnancy.
We don’t know what causes it, and some people who experience it recover without treatment.
But if you suddenly struggle with your hearing, contact your doctor immediately.
How do I know if I have an ear infection?
Ear infections can cause a lot of pain.
But they may cause other symptoms too.
These can include:
- Itching inside or around your ear
- A swollen or inflamed ear
- Tinnitus — hearing a high-pitched ringing or a clicking, hissing or roaring sound
- Hearing loss
What should I do if I get an ear infection while pregnant?
If you think you might have an ear infection, contact your doctor.
It probably isn’t serious, but it’s important to get treatment promptly so it doesn’t get worse.
And occasionally, symptoms that look like an ear infection could be something else.
Tinnitus, for example, can also result from high blood pressure.
Your doctor will be able to check what’s going on and identify the best course of treatment.
What can I take for an ear infection while pregnant?
Wondering how to get rid of an ear infection while pregnant?
Always talk to your doctor before taking any kind of medication during pregnancy.
That goes for herbal remedies as well as drugstore medications.
Many of the painkillers that are normally fine for use need to be avoided by mamas-to-be.
And the same thing often applies to antibiotics (though there are some safer options).
And while most painkillers are sadly off the table, paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen) is usually fine.
The golden rule here, though, is to talk to your doctor first.
Everyone, and every pregnancy, is different.
Your doctor will be able to talk you through the options that are right for you.
What home remedies can I take for an ear infection while pregnant?
Heat is often good for easing pain, and that applies to ear infections too.
Gentle warmth — a warm towel or a hot water bottle in a thick cover — can do wonders.
Hold it gently to your ear, and don’t press down.
You can also make up some ear drops with one part rubbing alcohol and one part vinegar.
But again, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor about this first.
And don’t use these if you have damage to any part of your ear canal.
How can I prevent an ear infection?
It’s not possible to completely eliminate the chances of an ear infection while pregnant.
But the good news is, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk:
- Treat your ears with care.
- Use a soft cloth to clean the outside and inside rim.
- Don’t put anything inside your ears, including cotton buds.
And if you’re going swimming, wear earplugs and a bathing cap.
That will help keep water out of your ears and reduce the chances of getting “swimmer’s ear.”
If you do get water inside, gently tipping your head from side to side will help remove it.
The bottom line on handling an ear infection while pregnant
Having an ear infection at any time is no picnic.
And when you’re pregnant, having to avoid certain medications can mean it’s doubly troublesome.
But there are things you can do to reduce the risk of getting an infection in the first place.
Treat your ears with care.
Clean them gently.
And don’t go swimming without earplugs and a bathing cap.
If you think you might have an ear infection, see a doctor promptly.
They’ll be able to advise on the best way to stop it in its tracks.
And if you need support along the way, check in with your Peanut community.
We’re here for you.