Researchers from Harvard University, the National University of Singapore, and Boston University conducted a recent study of infants with and without birth defects. The study determined that pregnant women that use nasal sprays during the first twelve (12) weeks of their pregnancy increase the risk of rare birth defects.  The study found a possible link between birth defects and two ingredients commonly found in decongestants (phenylephrine and phenylpropanolamine).

The researchers studied approximately 20,000 infants, 12,734 infants with birth defects and 7,606 infants without birth defects(including infants born in Delaware County and Philadelphia County). Mothers of the infants were interviewed and/or completed questionnaires within six (6) months after their delivery.  The compiled information consisted of lifestyle factors, and exposure to all medications (both prescription and over the counter medications). Neither the mothers nor the nurses conducting the interviews were advised that the research dealt with decongestants.

The research suggests a possible link between phenylephrine and phenylpropanolamine and the following three specific birth defects: endocardial cushion defect; ear defects; and pyloric stenosis.

The most serious of the three conditions, endocardial cushion defect is a condition where the walls separating the chambers of the heart are not properly formed. The study revealed that there is a slight chance, 2.7 in 1,000 (0.27%) that mothers taking phenylephrine could cause this birth defect.

Even if you did use a nasal decongestant during your pregnancy there is no need to overreact.  The research suggests that risk to your pregnancy is minimal.