Can You Get Bell’s Palsy While Pregnant?
Bell’s palsy is a medical condition that causes paralysis or weakness on one side of the face. In addition to affecting a woman during pregnancy, Bell’s palsy can sometimes impact an unborn baby.
Bell’s Palsy and Pregnancy: Here’s What You Need to Know
Pregnant women are susceptible to Bell’s palsy and other forms of facial paralysis. In some studies, researchers have found that pregnant women are two to four times more likely than men of the same age to experience Bell’s palsy. Also, various studies indicate that pregnant women are 3.3 times more likely than non-pregnant women to experience Bell’s palsy.
The aforementioned studies have shown that women are prone to Bell’s palsy in the third trimester of pregnancy. In instances where Bell’s palsy occurs, pregnant women can experience a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Watery eye on the paralyzed side of the face
- Difficulty smiling and/or making other facial expressions
- Trouble raising the eyebrow and/or blinking and closing the eye
- Changes in facial appearance and/or speech
Bell’s palsy cannot be prevented, but individuals who can quickly identify the warning signs of this condition can take the proper steps to treat it. In the event that a pregnant woman experiences any of the aforementioned symptoms of Bell’s palsy, she should consult with a doctor. Then, various tests can be performed to help identify the root cause of these symptoms and determine if the patient is dealing with Bell’s palsy.
What Types of Bell’s Palsy Testing Are Available?
As part of a Bell’s palsy diagnosis, a doctor can perform one or more of the following tests:
- Ear, Nose and Throat Evaluation: Enables a doctor to identify a head or neck tumor or malignancy or inner ear infection.
- Neurologic Assessment: Provides insights into a patient’s movement, reflexes, cranial nerves and level of consciousness.
- Hearing Test: Helps a doctor determine if a patient has experienced hearing damage or inner ear problems.
- Vestibular Test: Allows a doctor to find out if a patient’s nerve balance is intact.
- Tearing Test: Offers insights into a patient’s ability to produce tears.
- CT Scan: Produces an image of a patient’s neck and temporal bone to help a doctor determine if tumors or trauma are present.
- MRI: Generates an image of a patient’s internal auditory canal and brain and allows a doctor to determine if an acoustic neuroma or other tumors are present.
- Electrophysiologic Test: Involves the study of electrical flow to a patient’s heart.
A doctor only recommends Bell’s palsy tests for a pregnant women if they are believed to be safe for both the mother-to-be and her unborn baby. Once Bell’s palsy testing is performed, a doctor can then provide the patient with a personalized treatment recommendation.
How Is Bell’s Palsy Treated?
Bell’s palsy can affect individuals in different ways, and each treatment plan must be tailored to the patient. Initially, a doctor sometimes recommends the use of high-dose steroids and antiviral medications to help reduce Bell’s palsy symptoms. But if Bell’s palsy symptoms continue to persist after medications are prescribed, surgery may be required.
Selective neurolysis is a revolutionary Bell’s palsy surgery developed by Dr. Babak Azizzadeh, a globally recognized facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon. During a selective neurolysis procedure, Dr. Azizzadeh maps out a patient’s facial nerves via intraoperative electromyography, then reduces activity of the facial nerves that otherwise hamper the smile mechanism. Finally, Dr. Azizzadeh releases the platysma muscle in the patient’s mouth, which enables this individual to naturally smile, frown and make other facial expressions.
Along with selective neurolysis, a “supercharging” procedure is available to help patients coping with Bell’s palsy. This procedure simultaneously helps a patient strengthen weak smile muscles and maintain their basic function.
Botox for Bell’s palsy is also available, and it offers a nonsurgical alternative to help patients address facial paralysis. Botox injections help relax hyperactive muscles in the face, as well as improve facial symmetry and enhance the facial appearance.
Meanwhile, individuals sometimes undergo a parotidectomy to treat the parotid gland, which provides a critical pathway to the facial nerve. If the facial nerve is damaged during a parotidectomy, an individual is susceptible to facial palsy, especially if facial nerve recovery after parotidectomy goes unaddressed. Comparatively, if a patient works with a doctor who explains what to expect after a parotidectomy, this individual can take the necessary steps to minimize the risk of facial palsy after surgery.
The ideal treatment for Bell’s palsy among pregnant women varies based on the patient, and a full assessment is required to determine which option can deliver the best results. Regardless of treatment, some research indicates that the majority of pregnant women who develop Bell’s palsy achieve “satisfactory” recovery.
Should You Pursue Bell’s Palsy Treatment?
Pregnancy increases the risk of Bell’s palsy, and a pregnant woman who displays any symptoms of facial paralysis should seek out treatment immediately. The longer Bell’s palsy symptoms go undiagnosed and untreated, the more likely it becomes that a pregnant woman could experience long-lasting facial paralysis. Thankfully, with support from a doctor, a pregnant woman can take the first steps to correct facial paralysis symptoms before they get out of hand.
At The Facial Paralysis Institute, Dr. Azizzadeh assists patients who experience Bell’s palsy symptoms that linger for eight months or longer after initial diagnosis. If a Bell’s palsy patient continues to experience facial paralysis symptoms despite using medication or other treatments to correct these symptoms, Dr. Azizzadeh is available to help. To learn more or schedule a Bell’s palsy treatment consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh, please contact us online or call us today at (310) 657-2203.
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