Why Bell’s Palsy During Pregnancy is More Common Than You Think
Bell’s palsy is a primary cause of facial paralysis in the United States, altering how you look and causing facial tension that becomes noticeable after a while. It becomes possible when you have a condition that compromises your immune system such as HIV or diabetes. However, did you know that pregnancy can lead to you getting Bell’s palsy? It’s becoming a more common occurrence that you think and presents another potential body transformation you won’t enjoy going through during your nine-month adventure.
What is Bell’s palsy?
Bell’s palsy is a condition that makes the muscles in one side of your face weak or paralyzed. This causes your face to droop, becoming stiff and creating serious facial nerve tension.
Several viral infections can lead to contracting Bell’s palsy such as herpes simplex and herpes zoster (or shingles) as well as mumps, mononucleosis or HIV. Bacterial infections can also lead to Bell’s palsy including Lyme disease or tuberculosis, which causes inflammation and swelling in your facial nerve. A brainstem tumor or skull fracture or a neurological condition caused by chronic diseases such as diabetes can also lead to contracting Bell’s palsy.
How Are You More Susceptible?
As difficult as it is to hear if you’re a pregnant mother, you are three times more susceptible to getting Bell’s palsy compared to non-pregnant women.
Why is this? One theory is that edema, an abnormal accumulation of bodily fluids during pregnancy, causes facial tissues to swell. The interaction between your facial muscles and the brain is affected, with signals connecting the two being delayed. Immune system suppressions, taking place during your pregnancy’s final stages, is also looked at as a probable cause regarding facial nerve swelling. Research also points to high blood pressure as a possible reason as well as HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets) syndrome.
Once you reach the 26-week mark during your pregnancy, or within the third trimester, you become more prone to getting Bell’s palsy. Contracting this can increase hypertension risk and toxemia during pregnancy. It should be emphasized that there is currently no definitive reason why susceptibility increases during pregnancy. Some theories determine that pregnant women are merely predisposed to Bell’s palsy. This predisposition can be due to the high extracellular fluid content and viral inflammation happening while carrying your baby. Other physical changes that could add to the onset of Bell’s palsy include increased cortisol levels, blood clots, and eclampsia.
The Effects of Bell’s Palsy
Once you have Bell’s palsy, you will have trouble doing basic things such as speaking, eating, and drinking. With a complete facial paralysis on one side of your face, holding food, drinking, and chewing each become harder to do. Furthermore, the extra time you take to eat will wear you out. You’ll also have a harder time speaking clearly, impairing your ability to communicate to some degree. It might even become harder to close your eye or blink, with females already being more likely to develop dry eye syndrome than males. Hormonal alterations are seen as the reason for these eye issues developing. Your cornea is also put at significant risk, which could cause you to lose your sight. The paralyzed area may become painful, either behind the ear or around your jaw while you could also get headaches. You might also notice you are more sensitive to sounds.
In addition to the accompanying physical effects, there are obvious psychological effects that Bell’s palsy can have on a pregnant woman. The physical alterations that come with facial paralysis can shock you and restrict you from celebrating what should be your most joyous moment. It prevents you from expressing your emotions freely, with your happiness and anxiety mixed with any self-esteem issues this can cause. Encouragement and love are needed to ensure you can manage Bell’s palsy and overcome it over time.
Preventing it can be hard, but isn’t impossible because you can try things such as reducing your salt intake and drinking as much water as possible. The latter stops bloating, which is known to put added pressure on your facial nerves. But make sure to talk to your healthcare provider for specific instructions.
How to Treat Bell’s Palsy During Pregnancy
Most conventional Bell’s palsy treatment methods involve steroidal medication. This option is very risky for anyone, let alone pregnant women and it is not advised that pregnant women use steroids as they can seriously affect your unborn child. However, if you have to use them as a last resort, your doctor can recommend that you use corticosteroids. Research has shown that using corticosteroids improves chances of a full recovery and have been used in pregnancy to manage respiratory conditions like asthma. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe preservative-free eye lubricants to help you close your eyes during the day or refer you to an ophthalmologist.
Your health specialist shouldn’t assume you have Bell’s palsy unless other causes or factors are ruled out. If you have facial paralysis that has developed slowly over weeks or months, this may not be Bell’s palsy at all.
If you don’t want to take medication, physical therapy is another reliable treatment measure. Physical therapy is safe, natural, and can be continuous even after you’ve given birth. Some therapists focus on facial paralysis and loosening facial muscles, so seeking out such a therapist is a great place to start. It also helps to have a solid support group to boost your emotional and mental state while dealing with all the thoughts that must be going through your mind.
Recovery time differs depending on the level of facial inflammation caused by Bell’s palsy. The facial paralysis symptoms will disappear on their own, and you will regain full facial movements once the right treatment option is pursued. There’s also no evidence that the fetus will be adversely affected by this condition.