Shortness of Breath in Pregnancy

Shortness of breath when pregnant is very common. It occurs in about three quarters of all pregnant women. You may experience shortness of breath in the first or second trimester, which can be scary at first. You will feel breathless often if you are expecting twins or higher multiples, or if you have gained much weight during your pregnancy. Breathlessness may make you feel winded. You feel like you cannot catch your breath.

Why Would You Have Shortness of Breath in Pregnancy?

Your body goes through various changes during pregnant as it adapts to carrying the baby. These changes cause breathlessness. The area around your ribcage becomes broader during the early stages of pregnancy, so you may not fit in tight tops. The change is caused by upward and outward movements of the ribcage, which increase your lung capacity. What’s more, progesterone helps your body to adjust to its mechanism of absorbing oxygen into the bloodstream through the lungs. Consequently, your body is more sensitive to carbon dioxide levels released when you exhale.

The changes in your body enable you to breathe at the same rate as before but more deeply, which makes you feel breathless. The size of your baby in the third trimester can make you feel breathless. The uterus pushes upwards into your diaphragm, which in turn presses into your lungs. You may feel breathless at this stage even if you did not before. Breathlessness when taking the stairs may be uncomfortable but it is normal and harmless.

How Long Will the Shortness of Breath Last?

Your first baby may engage or drop down into your pelvis after 36 weeks. Breathlessness might ease at this stage. If you had a previous pregnancy, the baby may not engage until the end of your term. You may feel breathless if you are unfit, and gentle workouts will relieve the feeling in the long-term. Gentle exercises mean that you can talk while exercising without running out of breath.

Gentle workouts ensure that your baby gets enough oxygen. The level of progesterone hormone reduces after birth and this relieves the pressure on uterus and diaphragm immediately. However, the changes in your ribcage and breathing system may take months before they return to their state before pregnancy.

How to Ease Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy

1. Practice Good Posture

You can ease shortness of breath in pregnancy by standing up straight as you lift your head and back your shoulders. Imagine a straight line that connects your sternum to the sky to lift your chest.

2. Exercise

Aerobic exercises will help you improve your breathing and slow down your pulse. Consult your doctor before starting any exercise. You can also start prenatal yoga if you have not been exercising. Yoga includes breathing exercises and extra stretching that improves your posture and creates more room to breathe. Do not overdo any exercise, and listen to your body.

3. Relax

It is not easy to relax while you are experiencing shortness of breath. Your breathing becomes shallower when you are anxious about shallow breathing. Relax and rest when your body needs rest.

4. Take Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises can help improve chest breathing and raising your rib cage. The growth of your uterus limits deep abdominal breathing. You can ease shortness of breath during pregnancy in the following steps:

  • Stand up to reduce the pressure on your diaphragm.
  • Breathe in deeply as you raise your arms upward and outward to the sides.
  • Breathe out slowly while bringing your arms back to your sides.
  • Raise and lower your head while breathing in and out.
  • Place your hands on the sides of your rib cage and check for its expansion. This helps you ensure that you are breathing more into your chest than into your abdomen.
  • Make sure that your ribs push out against your hands when you breathe in deeply. Master how deep chest breathing feels so that you can easily switch to it when abdomen breathing becomes difficult.

When Should You Worry About Your Breathlessness?

Mild shortness of breath in pregnancy is normal. You need immediate medical attention if you experience severe breathlessness or if it comes on very suddenly. Talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Fast and strong heart beat or heart palpitations
  • Persistent cough
  • Rapid pulse
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Chills or fever
  • Worsening asthma attacks
  • Coughing blood
  • Blue color on your fingers, around the lips, or on your toes

Any illness that affects your breathing may worsen during pregnancy. If you are suffering from asthma, ask your health care provider for advice on how to manage the disease while pregnant. Asthma may remain the same, improve or worsen during pregnancy. Women who have moderate to severe asthma face a higher risk of an asthma attack in their third trimester, during labor, and while giving birth.