The incidence and severity of Bell's palsy are increased in pregnancy, with most cases arising in the third trimester or postpartum period. It has been indicated that pregnancy-related Bell's palsy has worse long-term outcomes, such as complete facial paralysis, compared with nonpregnant women and males.
This article outlines the existing literature diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of Bell's palsy, specifically looking at the implications during pregnancy. The aim is to provide a reference for physicians treating Bell's palsy in pregnant patients.
Existing literature on neuropathies during pregnancy, clinical presentation, and treatment of Bell's palsy was reviewed through a MEDLINE and PubMed search. Referenced articles were reviewed and used as primary source materials as appropriate.
Multiple clinical tests of motor function are used to establish the diagnosis of Bell's palsy including Wartenberg's lid vibration test, an abnormal eyelash occlusion test, and asymmetry with voluntary and spontaneous smiling. Optimal treatment for Bell's palsy remains controversial. While early treatment with corticosteroids for 10 days is highly recommended, the simultaneous use of antiviral therapy is frequently performed but has less supporting evidence. Pregnancy itself and delay in treatment initiation are associated with persistent nerve palsy, whereas treatment started within 3 days of symptom onset is usually associated with full recovery. Recurrence of Bell's palsy in pregnancy is rare.
Conclusions and Relevance
To date, there is limited literature in the diagnosis and treatment of Bell's palsy during pregnancy. The prognosis of Bell's palsy in pregnancy is worse than in nonpregnant individuals. Early treatment with steroids is recommended, but not without risk.
Obstetricians and gynecologists, family physician.
After completing this activity, the learner should be better able to identify clinical features and presentations of Bell's palsy; differentiate between the treatment and prognosis of Bell's palsy during pregnancy versus nonpregnancy; and assess the risks and benefits of treatment of Bell's palsy with corticosteroids and antivirals in pregnant women.