Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy

Three pregnant women.

In most cases, shortness of breath during pregnancy is a normal symptom, but should be reported to your doctor if it seems excessive or you find you are experiencing other symptoms that might indicate a problem. Understanding the changes your body undergoes while pregnant will help you understand why you are experiencing shortness of breath during pregnancy.

Shortness of Breath Symptoms

Most pregnant women will concur that feeling short of breath during pregnancy is common. Feeling out of breath is very noticeable during the last trimester as the baby grows and your body expands. Shortness of breath symptoms may be described in the following manner:

  • Feeling as if you are unable to expand your lungs enough to get a full breath.
  • Feeling heavy, as if a weight is placed on your chest.
  • Breathing hard even though the activity needed little exertion.
  • Being unable to do activities that you used to do easily.

Hormonal Changes In Early Pregnancy Affect Breathing

From the very beginning of pregnancy, the body experiences hormonal changes to support the fetus. The rise in hormone levels stimulates the brain to increase the respiration rate. This is why some woman may notice that they are short of breath from the very beginning of pregnancy.

Expanding Belly

As the fetus grows, the uterus expands and gets larger. This really starts to become apparent in the 2nd or 3rd trimester. The uterus can begin to push all the internal organs upward, taking up room where the diaphragm used to be. Trying to expand the lungs and get a deep breath may feel difficult when the lungs have no room for expansion. If you are carrying the baby high in the abdomen, the breathlessness may be more intense.

Stress of Carrying the Baby

As the baby gets heavier and you gain weight, the heart and lungs needs to work harder to support the respiratory and circulatory system.

What To Do When You Experience Shortness of Breath

During your pregnancy, especially as the belly expands, you will need to slow down. This alone should improve your shortness of breath symptoms, but following are a few more tips:

  • Spend time each day sitting in a quiet and comfortable position with your back supported so you can sit up tall.
  • Rest your hands in your lap and allow your shoulders to relax.
  • Ask someone for a back massage to relieve further tension if necessary.
  • As you inhale, breathe slowly and deeply into the abdomen.
  • Try counting from three to five seconds as you inhale.
  • Periodically throughout the day, try to sit up or stand up tall and lift your hands over your head, stretching upwards to make more room in your rib cage for your lungs.
  • Take a yoga class or find a pregnancy yoga video that pays special attention to breathing and relaxing.

When to Call the Doctor

Even though feeling short of breath is a normal symptom of pregnancy, there are times when it is an indication of an underlying problem and you should call your doctor right away. When to call your doctor:

  • If you already have a health condition prior to pregnancy that affects breathing or your cardiovascular system
  • Asthmatic type shortness of breath where you are gasping for air
  • Chest pain, fever, or coughing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Bluish hands or feet

Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy: A Gentle Reminder

Normal shortness of breath during pregnancy should not affect the oxygen intake of your baby. However, being short of breath is a gentle reminder that you might need to slow down and take it easy in pregnancy. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, and stay within the normal weight gain for each trimester and you should go on to experience a happy and healthy pregnancy and birth.

Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy