Your cardiovascular system might be up to snuff, but if you’re like an estimated 60 to 70 percent of pregnant women, shortness of breath is still something you’ll probably experience. This common pregnancy symptom, which is medically known as dyspnea, can occur early on in your pregnancy, and can also show up in the second and third trimesters. So if you’re winded climbing a flight of stairs, you can breathe easy knowing that it’s perfectly normal to feel this way.
What causes shortness of breath during pregnancy?
Feeling a slight tightening in your chest and mild breathlessness? You can blame your ever-changing pregnant body, including a whole new wave of hormones, for the change in your respiratory system. According to Medical News Today, difficulty breathing or catching your breath during pregnancy is due to a variety of factors, ranging from a growing uterus to changes in the demands on your heart.
Shortness of breath is one of the first signs of pregnancy, especially if it’s accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and aversion to foods. During the first weeks of pregnancy, you’re producing a huge amount of the hormone progesterone to help build and sustain the uterine lining. This is great for baby but affects breathing since progesterone increases the amount of air you normally inhale and exhale. Your body is also adjusting to sharing oxygen with your new “womb mate,” which impedes breathing comfortably.
If you didn’t feel much difference with your breathing during the first trimester, you’ll definitely experience noticeable shortness of breath during the second. Your heart is working overtime to help support both you and baby, and your growing uterus is also contributing to the breathlessness that you’re feeling.
According to Healthline, your growing baby is pushing your uterus against your diaphragm and moving it up about four centimeters from its pre-pregnancy position. No wonder you’re feeling winded! Your growing uterus is also pushing on other organs, and as a result, your lungs are somewhat compressed. This means you’re unable to take in as much air with each breath. Don’t fret, though; you’re still getting plenty of oxygen. While each breath may bring in less air, the air stays in the lungs longer so you’re getting all the oxygen that you and your baby need.
What can you do about pregnancy shortness of breath?
While you might not be able to stop shortness of breath, there are some tips to help you breathe more comfortably:
- Practicing good posture helps the lungs expand.
- Sleeping with pillows that support the upper back can also help give your lungs a little bit, uh, more “breathing” room at night.
- Practicing deep breathing techniques, similar to the breathing you learn in childbirth classes, will help you breathe better too (and a little practice for the real thing can’t hurt).
- Listen to your body. If you’re feeling winded, take a break. You’re not running a marathon — you’re having a baby, which is just as powerful and awe-inspiring. So do your body a favor, and rest when needed.
When should I be concerned about shortness of breath during pregnancy?
While shortness of breath can be uncomfortable and a little bit worrisome, it’s usually harmless and just another symptom of pregnancy. However, if the inability to catch your breath is causing you major discomfort and is accompanied by blue lips, fingers, toes, wheezing, dizziness, heart palpitations, or seems to become worse, then visit your physician or local hospital.