July 22, 2018

Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy

Pregnancy and Shortness of Breath

Throughout your pregnancy, you’re likely to experience shortness of breath. This is natural and generally poses no health risk to you or your baby, including the amount of oxygen the baby gets.

Why is it Hard to Breathe When Pregnant?

Early Pregnancy

As your body adjusts to higher amounts of progesterone, it needs to increase breathing, and this can feel like shortness of breath. Progesterone also increases lung capacity to transfer the higher oxygen levels to the blood. But what feels like shortness of breath is actually your body trying to fill the expanded capacity with your pre-pregnancy normal breathing levels. This increased capacity will take some getting used to.

Later Pregnancy

During the third trimester of pregnancy, shortness of breath is typically due to the growth of the uterus resulting in pressure against your diaphragm. As your due date nears, and the baby drops lower into your pelvis, you should be able to breathe a little easier.

Breathe Easier

Here are a few tips to relieve your pregnancy-related shortness of breath:

  • Sit or stand up straight – Straightening your posture gives your lungs more room to expand.
  • Hands up – Lifting your arms and hands over your head also creates room by taking pressure off your rib cage.
  • Take it easy – When you’re feeling short of breath, slow your pace to reduce the work of your heart and lungs.
  • Aerobic exercise – When not feeling short of breath, exercise improves breathing and lowers your pulse.
  • Breathing exercises – Practicing deep breathing will also improve your overall breathing and capacity.

Warning Signs

Pregnant women experiencing shortness of breath should monitor their symptoms and inform their doctor if conditions worsen. If you have one or more of the following symptoms, it’s a medical emergency:

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Difficulty speaking in full sentences
  • Shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain
  • Swelling in the face or abdomen with shortness of breath (this could be an allergic reaction)
  • Sudden, unexpected shortness of breath

As you monitor any shortness of breath, you’ll become acquainted with when you typically experience it. Be sure to discuss those experiences with your doctor on regular visits and advise your health care team of any irregularities.

Learn more about mother and baby care at Baptist Health.

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