Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy

Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy – The Causes and 8 Ways to Beat It

Are you experiencing shortness of breath during pregnancy? It is not uncommon and most women find themselves experiencing it at some point in their journey to motherhood. Pregnancy is a great experience for women as you are bringing a new life. But, it is not free from discomforts. One among them is the trouble to breathe properly. While the problem may feel worrisome, it may not cause any harm to your baby or you. In most cases, it is normal changes occurring during the pregnancy. But, it is still to consider if some other reasons trigger the problem. Read ahead to know more about how you can assess whether the shortness of breath during pregnancy occurs normally or some underlying health issue triggers it.

About Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy

shortness of breath during pregnancy Pregnancy can cause a lot of changes in the body. The hormones change to encourage the growth of the baby in its mother’s womb. Short of breath during pregnancy is one such discomfort associated with the motherhood journey. It can occur due to various reasons. But, you need to pay close attention to detect if the condition has severe signs. Severe breathlessness coming suddenly or see other symptoms associated with shortness of breath, then seek immediate medical attention. Here are some of the symptoms you need to consider as a medical emergency:

  • Trouble to take breath properly
  • Finding it difficult to talk in full sentences
  • Chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath
  • Swelling in abdomen or face along with shortness of breath (possibility of an allergic reaction)
  • Short of breath appears suddenly and unexpectedly

Causes Of Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy

Feeling breathless is a common pregnancy sign. When you consult a doctor for the problem, the medical professional cannot pinpoint a single cause for the issue. Several factors can play a role in causing breathlessness. It ranges from the growing uterus to additional demands of the heart during pregnancy. While some women may notice immediately after they find out about the pregnancy, others may see the changes after the second and third trimesters. Here are some of the causes associated with shortness of breath during pregnancy:

Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy: First Trimester

Most women realize they are with a child due to observing early signs of pregnancy. But, most women may not suffer from breathlessness. It is because the fetus is not large enough to cause such changes. After implantation of the embryo, your diaphragm rises by four centimeters. The diaphragm is the band of muscular tissue separating your lungs and heart from the stomach. Normally, the movement of the diaphragm aids in filling the lungs with air. With pregnancy, this action can encounter slight changes. While some women become aware of the changes when they take deep breaths, others may not find it easier to take full breaths.

The increase in progesterone hormone during pregnancy can cause women to breathe faster. To sustain a pregnancy, your body releases progesterone hormone. It is highly significant in the development of the fetus. But, this hormone also acts as a respiratory stimulant. So, it causes the breathing to quicken. As pregnancy advances, the progesterone hormone in the body also increases. Hence, shortness of breath during pregnancy becomes a common issue throughout this journey. But, breathing faster does not mean you will suffer breathlessness. It can indicate your body working harder to maintain the pregnancy.

Second Trimester

As your pregnancy progresses, the heart works harder to provide blood to your baby. This can result in shortness of breath during pregnancy. Most pregnant women experience breathlessness during the second trimester. At this stage, the growing uterus contributes to the condition. Combined with the way your heart functions now can make the problem noticeable. So, why does the heart work so hard? In normal cases, the amount of blood in a pregnant woman increases. It results in the heart pumping harder to move the blood throughout the body, including the placenta. With the increased workload on your heart, it is no wonder you feel breathless.

Third Trimester

In the last trimester of your pregnancy journey, your baby grows in the uterus to term. It can push the uterus against your diaphragm. It is understood that the diaphragm moves up at least four centimeters from its earlier position before pregnancy. Due to the growing bump, your lung can also get compressed. It means some women may find it difficult to breathe during the final stages of pregnancy.

Also, the position of the developing baby’s head can make it easier or difficult to breathe. It is a common problem during the last trimester. As the baby starts to turn to drop further into your pelvic region, the head of the baby can make it difficult to breathe. It can press the diaphragm and cause breathlessness. This type of shortness of breath during pregnancy affects around the 31st week to the 34th week.

Seeking Medical Assistance For Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy

During any stage of the pregnancy, if you experience sudden breathlessness or the problem becomes severe, see a doctor immediately. You must consult a doctor when you see other signs like a rapid pulse or chest pain along with breathlessness. Here are some of the signs indicating the need to seek immediate medical attention when you experience shortness of breath during pregnancy:

  • Heart palpitations (You feel heart beating fast and strongly)
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • See blue color around lips, toes, or fingers
  • Persistent cough
  • Asthma symptoms worsening
  • Fever or chills

These symptoms may indicate something serious requiring medical intervention. Some of the condition causing such severe symptoms are:

Pulmonary Embolism Causes Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy

A person develops pulmonary embolism due to a blood clot getting stuck in the artery of the lungs. It is a rare condition that can harm pregnant women. Embolism can have a dramatic effect on your breathing. Other signs associated with the condition are:

  • Short of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Cough

If a pregnant woman suffers from a blood clot in their legs, the chances of suffering the severe condition become high.

Peripartum Cardiomyopathy

It is a serious condition affecting pregnant women during their pregnancy or immediately after giving birth. Due to the problem expectant or new mothers can suffer from heart failure. Women at risk of suffering from heart failure can develop the following signs apart from shortness of breath during pregnancy:

The above-mentioned symptoms are common in pregnancy. So, many women tend to leave it. It can escalate and requires medical intervention.



Pregnancy suppresses the natural immune response. It is because your body works harder to make your body a safe place for the baby. It makes you prone to flu. With already a reduced lung capacity due to pregnancy flu can escalate to complications like pneumonia. It starts like the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • But, it can result in severe signs such as-
  • Trouble breathing properly
  • Chills/fever
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent coughing getting worse
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid breathing

Expectant mothers can suffer from bacterial or viral pneumonia. Both of the condition can trigger potential complications such as:

  • Develop infection affecting the unborn baby
  • Premature delivery
  • Respiratory failure

While expectant mothers suffering from pneumonia observe the same symptoms during any of the trimesters. But, most expectant mothers become aware of the symptoms in the last part of the pregnancy. It is because of the other discomforts they suffer.

Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy Due To Asthma

Women who have asthma need to seek medical help when they see the symptoms worsening. Pregnancy can make existing symptoms of asthma worse. To avoid any complications, women with asthma need to talk to their doctor before getting pregnant. They need to check the safer treatment options available like medications or inhalers. In most cases, asthma medications are safe to take during pregnancy. Usually, doctors suggest inhaled medication to pregnant women suffering from asthma. It is because of the localized effect it offers. It is essential to seek medical attention when your chest feels tight.

8 Ways To Beat Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy

Most pregnant women feel breathless at any time during their pregnancy. Shortness of breath during pregnancy is a common, yet harmless condition. It may develop early or later stages of your pregnancy. You may not panic as it will not affect the oxygen levels your baby receives in the womb. But, if you feel something is wrong, make an appointment with your doctor. Follow your intuitions. For not-so-serious breathlessness, you can try the following methods to get relief.

#1 Change Your Position

You can try to keep an upright posture when you feel breathless. Try standing upright by holding the hands above your head when you feel short of breath. Changing into such positions will expand your lungs. It will help breathe easier. Lifting your arms above the head can ease the pressure off the rib cage. This action will help take in more air. Practicing a good posture will aid in easy breathing. It is because a good posture can move the uterus away from the diaphragm.

Change Your Position

During the night, you need to use an extra pillow under your head. It will raise your head a little higher and make it easier to breathe properly. At the later stages of the pregnancy, it becomes difficult to sleep properly. You can change the posture by trying to sleep in a half-sitting position. Also, try sleeping on the left side to breathe easier. This position will relieve pressure on the major blood vessels supplying blood to your baby.

#2 Slow Down to Ease Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy

When you first confirm your pregnancy, you need to make some changes in your personal and professional schedule. It is important to ease extra pressure. If you have a hectic schedule, try talking to your employers to ease the schedule. For women who have work involving heavy objects, they need to stop doing it until they give birth. You need to listen to your body’s signals. When you exceed the limits, your body sends signs to slow down. Talk to your family members to reduce the workload in your household. Making such changes can ease shortness of breath during pregnancy.

#3 Maintain Healthy Weight

Gaining weight during pregnancy is a normal thing. But, when your body weight exceeds healthy levels, you can increase the risk of obstetric complications. It can include the following:

  • Preterm birth
  • Preeclampsia
  • Gestational diabetes
  • C-section birth
  • Respiratory infections
  • Breathlessness
  • Airway hyperresponsiveness
  • Wheezing

While pregnant women with a healthy weight can also feel short of breath, the frequency and severity increase when they suffer from obesity. Therefore, talk to your gynecologist regarding the correct weight you can maintain during pregnancy. Include healthy food that will provide all nutrients for you and your baby without adding pounds. Eliminate foods high in sugar, salt, and fat.

#4 Include Exercise

shortness of breath during pregnancy Include Exercise

Pregnant women who exercise regularly before becoming pregnant can continue with their exercise routine after consulting the gynecologist. Your doctor can suggest the necessary changes that need to make to fit the current state. Exercising can prevent putting on additional weight that can increase breathlessness. But, if you have not tried any exercise, you can start slowly. Exercises are suggested for pregnant women who suffer from no health complications. They can include moderate-intensity activities without suffering from any complications. You can try aerobic exercise during pregnancy. The simple exercises improve the efficiency of your circulatory and respiratory systems.

But, take care while you exercise. Never allow yourself to become out of breath. It may cause dizziness. If you are exercising with an instructor, make sure you inform him/her about your pregnancy. Else, you can go to classes tailored for pregnant women. Women who are not used to exercising must never stress themselves the first time out. Never go racing around the block in this condition. Ensure you talk to your doctor. Start slowly and stop immediately when you feel uncomfortable.

#5 Try Breathing Exercises

To make it easier to breathe, you can try some breathing exercises. These exercises will overcome breathlessness. As your pregnancy progresses, your uterus grows. So, deep abdominal breathing becomes difficult. You can try the following steps to relieve shortness of breath during pregnancy:

  • You need to stand up for trying the breathing exercise. The standing posture can relieve some pressure from the diaphragm.
  • Raise your arms outward to your side and then move them upward while you inhale deeply.
  • When you bring the arms back to the sides, you need to exhale slowly.
  • Make sure to raise and lower the head when you inhale and exhale.

It is important to breathe more into the chest. At times, you may breathe down into your abdomen. It may not offer results. So, to check rib cage expansion, you need to place the hands on your sides. Place it on the rib cage. When you inhale deeply, try to push out the ribs against your hands. Think about nothing else and focus on how this type of breathing makes you feel. You can switch to this type of deep breathing when breathing becomes difficult due to the uterus crowding your lungs. Try this exercise when you find abdominal breathing difficult. It can make breathlessness go away

# 6 Practice Breathing For Labor

Practice Breathing For Labor

You can practice slow, relaxed breathing to overcome breathlessness. Try the Lamaze breathing technique, which will come in handy during labor. This breathing technique works on the idea of controlled breathing. Controlled breathing tends to decrease pain perception and offers relaxation. The important aspects of the controlled breathing technique include:

  • Slow and deep breathing
  • Closing or opening eyes during breathing
  • Maintain a rhythm
  • Focus on a physical item close to your heart while breathing

Lamaze is not just breathing, it includes several other things to build the confidence of expectant mothers. You can take a Lamaze class for a safe and healthy birth. It also helps overcome breathlessness.

#7 Experiment With Different Positions

You need to find an ideal sitting and sleeping position to ensure easier breathing. Try to sit on a chair by following the correct posture. You need to lift your chest and ensure shoulder stays back. This position makes it easier on lungs compared to sitting in a slumped position on a recliner. Try to follow a position that makes it easier to breathe.

#8 Overcome Iron Deficiency

If your breathlessness is caused due to iron deficiency or anemia, you need to replenish your body with foods containing iron. You can add the following foods to your diet:

  • Eggs
  • Red meat
  • Pulses
  • Beans
  • Green leafy vegetables

Also, you need to include adequate vitamin C in your diet for enhancing iron absorption in your body. Including fruits like kiwis, grapefruits, oranges, and strawberries will help better iron absorption. For better iron absorption from your food, you need to drink plenty of water every day. Try to avoid fluids causing dehydration. Beverages like cola and coffee make you pee more. It means your body gets rid of more water. It is not ideal for iron absorption. You must never include iron supplements without consulting your doctor. Only your doctor can prescribe iron supplements during the pregnancy to overcome anemia.

Complementary Therapies To Manage Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy

While no hard evidence exists indicating the effectiveness of complementary therapies in managing breathlessness. But, these therapies can make you feel relaxed. So, you will not feel short of breath. If you are planning to seek complementary therapy, then choose a registered and qualified practitioner with experience to undergo the therapy. Also, seek advice from your gynecologist to check the option feel help you without causing any harm to the baby.

Acupuncture To Ease Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy

Acupuncture To Ease Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy

Acupuncture is an ancient therapy used by the Chinese to heal several health issues. Complementary therapy aims to help your body function more efficiently. During acupuncture, the practitioner inserts fine needles into certain points in the body. While it’s hard to conclusively say if the alternative therapy can ease breathlessness, some people have found relief. Acupuncture can release natural painkillers known as endorphins in the body. The release of endorphins can offer relaxation and ease shortness of breath during pregnancy.


Osteopathy is a non-invasive therapy using no drugs. Manual therapy focuses on improving overall health. The therapy can manipulate and strengthen the musculoskeletal framework. Usually, the therapy aims to ease lower back pain. While no evidence indicates its effectiveness to ease breathlessness, trying this therapy can improve your posture and relax your body. So, it helps you breathe more easily. The therapy appears similar to chiropractic aiming to realign the body. It reduces pressure on the joints and eases muscle tension.

Getting Necessary Assistance For Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy

While breathlessness is one of the signs of pregnancy, in some cases, it requires medical attention. You need to get the assistance of the doctor when you see the following symptoms:

  • Severe and sudden shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pain while taking a deep breath

These signs indicate a serious problem like blood clots dislodging and settling in the lungs. It is a rare but serious complication needing immediate medical attention.


Getting pregnant is one of the wonderful moments in your life. As your body prepares to grow a new life, you can expect changes. Becoming out of breath is a common pregnancy system. It is because you need more oxygen during pregnancy. Also, the enhanced hormones like progesterone can affect your lungs. While the number of breaths you take normally and during pregnancy does not differ, the inhalation and exhalation of air levels with every breath differs. You can follow the suggestion provided here to beat the problem. But, if you see no improvement or observe other symptoms, consult the doctor immediately.  With your doctor’s assistance, you can ease shortness of breath during pregnancy. It will ensure a safe pregnancy.

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