Ear Infection While Pregnant: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Doctor examining woman's ear
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Getting an ear infection while pregnant can be scary. And a first-time mother-to-be will be worried that the ear infection may cause harm to the baby. The good news is that this is not likely the case.

First, it’s important to know what causes an ear infection. Since your hormones are off the charts when pregnant, you’ll be happy to know that many expecting mothers get ear infections.

Causes for an Ear Infection While Pregnant

Ear infections can be caused by a variety of different things, and your doctor can pinpoint the issue for you. When an ear infection occurs, it’s normally due to:

Doctor examining woman's ear

  • Colds
  • Excess mucus
  • Allergies
  • Sinus infections
  • Infected or swollen adenoids

An ear infection will result in inflammation. The inflammation is what leads to the Eustachian tubes being blocked. Fluid will build up in the middle of the ear, and you’ll have a full-blown ear infection – not fun.

Ear infections are a bacterial or viral infection.

It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to suffer from ear infections, and many women experience them sporadically. One woman will get an ear infection during her first-trimester, while others in subsequent trimesters.

[Read more about First Trimester]

If you’re a person that has chronic ear infections, you’re at a much higher risk of an infection when pregnant.

Ear Infection Symptoms

How do you know that you have an ear infection? This depends. There are several symptoms that will be experienced:

Ear infection symptoms
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  • Earaches that are often very painful. You may also experience a throbbing in the ear that won’t go away.
  • Hearing reduction is almost assured. Since the tube in the ear is swollen and fluid is present, you’ll notice that your hearing is not sufficient.
  • Fluid may drain out of the ear. This can be caused by other medical conditions, and you should see a doctor right away.

Swelling inside of the ear will be a symptom, but it’s very hard for the average person to notice this swelling. You may have swelling in the inner or middle ear, and you won’t be able to see this far into the ear under normal circumstances. A doctor will be able to use a light and see deep into the ear to properly diagnose an infection.

Treatment for an Ear Infection While Pregnant

You don’t want to suffer through the pain of an ear infection – they hurt more when pregnant. And if you’re having restless nights and difficulty sleeping already, an ear infection will make matters even worse.

Treatment is often best sought at a doctor.

Since the ear infection is bacterial in nature, there is a slight risk that it can travel further in the body, especially if you have a suppressed immune system. If this is the case, you may be at risk for further health issues, and there is a possibility that your baby is harmed in the process.

The first treatment option will require medical attention:

1. Antibiotics

Antibiotics letters and pills
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Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if the infection does not clear on its own. In most cases, infections need little-to-no help clearing. Antibiotics are often offered when you have chronic reoccurring ear infections that simply won’t go away.

It’s important to note that if you are given antibiotics, you need to take all of the medicine provided even after the infection’s symptoms are gone.

Most doctors will be hesitant to provide you with an antibiotic because it may harm the baby. If there are no other means to correct the issue, the doctor will provide a safe antibiotic for use.

Note: Antibiotics specially designed for the ears will be recommended. Drops are common, and many women simply place the drops on a Q-tip and insert it into the ear, so it works faster and has less of an impact on their baby.

2. Over-the-Counter Products

I highly recommend discussing your options with your doctor, but if you don’t, there are some over-the-counter options available to you. A few of the most common over-the-counter options include:

  • Ibuprofen: A common pain reliever that will provide relief for inner ear pain.
  • Ear drops: Many pharmacies offer ear drops that are medicated, and are meant to reduce swelling and help fight infections.
  • Decongestant: If the ear infection is being made worse by allergies, a decongestant may be a good option.

Remember, your baby will be directly affected by the products you take, so always proceed with caution.

3. Surgery

Don’t freak out. Surgery for ear infections is rather rare, but it may be a last resort. When an ear infection won’t go away, the doctor will stick tubes into the ear that are meant to drain the fluid out of the middle ear.

The removal of the fluid will allow you to hear better and alleviate a lot of your symptoms.

If your adenoids are extremely enlarged, the doctor may surgically remove them. Again, this is only in very severe cases. Surgery is often postponed until after birth to ensure the lowest risk possible for the mother and child.

4. Home Remedies

If this is a new infection and it is not chronic, you can safely use a variety of home remedies to cure your ear infection. Again, an ear infection while pregnant may not be serious, but this depends on too many factors to assess. It’s always best to ask your doctor for help.

Garlic and oil on white background
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But you can also try some of these tried-and-true methods to get rid of ear infections:

  • Garlic Oil: A few drops of garlic oil can be placed in the ear with a Q tip.
  • Mineral Oil: This oil can relieve pressure on the ear and can be dropped into the ear safely.
  • Heat: Any time you’re suffering from inflammation, heat is a go-to remedy. Simply apply a hot wash cloth to the ear. Warm salt bags can also help.
  • Vinegar and Water: Many people will dilute vinegar and water, and use this as ear drops. This mixture can kill bacteria, and is highly recommended.

Ear infections are no fun. If you’re suffering from one, the treatments above are your best course of action.

10 COMMENTS

  1. This is by far the worst article I’ve ever read. Half of this information is false. This needs to be either taken down or changed.

  2. Are you kidding me? How can an article for pregnant women recommend ibuprofen? Ibuprofen is completely unsafe during pregnancy. What kind of uninformed person wrote this? This is dangerous information and should be taken down.

  3. Lol my midwife prescribed me ibuprofen when I got a painful bartholin cyst. Ibuprofen is just as safe as Tylenol. Don’t y’all use google??? Lol

  4. This is a terrible article. NO Ibuprofen is allowed in pregnancy and also same with most decongestants. Warm wash cloth will also provide bacteria a wonderful place to grow and should NEVER be used for ear infections. Warm+ inflammation is a no go. You should always tame inflammation with cool. Please talk to your doctor and do NOT follow this page at all.

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