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Pregnancy Topics..

You are here : home > Pregnancy > Medical Aspects of Pregnancy > Breathlessness


Breathlessness is common in pregnancy and unless any serious health problem, it is not going to bring any harm to your baby. Read more to learn how to overcome the problems of shortness of breath during pregnancy.

Pregnancy brings in many changes in woman’s body and there are some common discomforts that every pregnant woman feels either throughout or in most part of the term. Breathlessness is one of the common problems that usually pregnant women face. When it starts during first trimester or second trimester, it can be scary for many women.

Short of breath is quite common, but breathlessness happens when you have gained a lot of weight during pregnancy or you are expecting twins or perhaps more. However, this discomfort is mild in normal pregnancy and will not disrupt your daily activity.

What causes breathlessness during pregnancy?

The most prominent cause of breathlessness during pregnancy is that the body tries to adapt itself to carry a growing baby inside. Secondly, if you are used to wearing tight clothes, in early pregnancy when the ribcage gets broadened, you might find short of breath because the increasing ribcage would struggle to fit in your tight outfit.

During pregnancy, the body adapts the way it takes in oxygen and so your body becomes sensitive to the amount of carbon dioxide more than before. This leaves the woman feeling winded and short of breath as well.

In the later period of pregnancy, the growing size of the baby also makes you feel breathless. This is mainly because the growing size of the uterus pushes the ribcage and presses the lungs, which causes breathlessness in pregnant women.

Causes of shortness of breath can also be serious. It can be due to anemia, serious heart disease or pulmonary disease. Therefore, if chest pain, dizziness, coughing off blood is accompanied with breathlessness, consult your doctor immediately. Also, if breathlessness does not calm down after taking rest, you should contact your doctor because it can be a serious matter also.

Although feeling huffed and puffed even after doing some light work may not make you feel good, there is not much to worry unless you get relieved and calm down after taking some rest. This shortness of breath is completely normal and harmless as well.

At times, I can't breathe. Is this due to pregnancy?

Yes, especially as pregnancy advances.  Hormones activated by pregnancy swell the capillaries of the respiratory tract and relax the muscles of the lungs and bronchial tubes. Furthermore, the growing uterus also pushes up against the diaphragm, and makes it difficult for the lungs to expand fully. This leads to breathlessness. But if the breathlessness increases in severity, you require immediate medical attention.

When I have difficulty breathing, does my baby get enough oxygen?

Studies have shown that women actually allow more oxygen into their systems and even use it more efficiently than normal during pregnancy. However, because the growing uterus is crowding the lungs, you feel a shortness of breath. Approximately, 2 or 3 weeks before delivery, when the foetus settles into the pelvis (also called "lightening" or "dropping"), you would be able to breathe more easily. Until then, sleep in a semi-propped position and do not slump when sitting. Rest as much as you can. Your baby will be fine. However, if your shortness of breath is severe, do consult your doctor.

What to do when feeling breathlessness?

Although the feeling is normal and harmless, it is good to take rest in between.

  • Do all your work slowly and take things slowly than before.

  • Remember, not to push yourself too hard when you are engaged in any physical activity.

  • Pay attention to your posture when you are sitting. Sit up straight keeping your shoulders back. This will give your lungs enough space to expand comfortably.

  • At bed, prop up yourself a bit by adding extra pillows beneath your head and upper body. You will get much relief.
No matter how often you feel breathlessness, after childbirth you will get back to normal soon.

Can breathlessness indicate serious problem?

Slight breathlessness or short of breath that subsides with rest can be considered normal.

However, if you have any other problem like asthma or pneumonia, it can become serious when you are pregnant.

Also, there are changes in blood clotting seen during pregnancy and you can be at risk of pulmonary embolism, which is rare, but very serious.

If you feel shortness of breath suddenly and it gets severe, it can be a sign of serious medical problem.

Get medical help immediately if breathlessness is accompanied with:

  • Rapid breathing

  • Chest pain

  • Rapid heart palpitations

  • Psychologically feeling that you are not getting enough oxygen

  • A persistent cough

  • If you look pale or there is blue tinge surrounding your lips, toes or fingers
Until you have any serious problem, breathlessness will not do any harm to your baby.

What are the causes of breathlessness during pregnancy? How to deal with breathlessness during pregnancy? How to prevent breathlessness during pregnancy? Discuss here.

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Fatima.5 years ago
I am in my early third trimester. I have a huge belly and am always feeling breathlessness and unable to sleep at night. Is it because of my huge belly?
sarabjit s batra.8 years ago
my wife complains of restlessness and feels short on breathing coupled with a lot of pain all over my stomach

she has just entered her 9thmonth

is it normal for mothers to experience such a state.
my wife complains of restlessness and feels short on breathing coupled with a severe headache while sleeping, doctor gave medicine, but she can hardly sleep due to headache.she is running her 6th month& this is her 3rd delivery prev. both were very normal, kindly any suggestions. dr. said it could be athamatic problem, so he is guiding towards the echo test or pft test. for 4-5 days he will observe her by keeping her for nebulixer.
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