Women's Healthcare Topics

Why do I get Shortness of Breath during My Pregnancy?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Shortness of Breath is Very Common in Pregnancy

Some women experience shortness of breath (S.O.B.) during pregnancy. This is actually a common side effect of pregnancy.

Most women become more aware of their breathing during pregnancy, in part because of increasing demands carrying a baby places on the circulatory and respiratory systems. Rising levels of hormones can also stimulate the respiratory responses in the brain increasing your respiration rate and contributing to shortness of breath.

Shortness of breath during pregnancy may also result as your uterus expands and takes up much of the room you have available in your belly and diaphragm. Women who tend to carry high may notice this more as will women carrying multiples. Other women will experience shortness of breath while exercising or while attempting to climb the stairs. Both situations are usually normal.

Is Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy Safe?

Shortness of breath during pregnancy is usually not anything to worry about. It may however serve as a gentle reminder that you should take things easy during your pregnancy. Some women fear their shortness of breath may reflect on their baby's oxygen intake. This is not the case however.

Very rarely shortness of breath may suggest an underlying problem. This is more commonly the case if you have a health condition prior to pregnancy that contributes to respiratory illness or dysfunction. Common examples include asthma. Related information about asthma at 28 weeks pregnant.

Shortness of breath during pregnancy is usually not anything to worry about.

In even more rare instances shortness of breath may be a sign of a pulmonary embolism. This is a blood clot that breaks free and travels to the lungs. Women are slightly more at risk for this condition during pregnancy due to blood clotting mechanisms in the body. If your shortness of breath comes on suddenly without provocation, you should contact your doctor or other healthcare provider.

Other reasons you should contact your doctor include:

  • Shortness of breath accompanied by asthmatic symptoms.

  • Shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain, fever and persistent coughing, which may signify a respiratory illness.

  • Shortness of breath accompanied by heart palpitations or other cardiac symptoms.

  • Bluish appearance of the appendages which may suggest inadequate oxygen intake.

Your doctor will undoubtedly request a complete physical to determine the exact cause of your medical problem.

Tips For Improving S.O.B. During Pregnancy

For ordinary shortness of breath, there are some simple strategies you can adopt to resolve the problem and fill your lungs with oxygen free air. Here are some ideas for improving your symptoms in the short term:

  • Take time to expand your chest and breathe in slowly. When you breathe do so from your stomach. One way to enhance your breathing is by raising your arms above your head to open your rib cage.

  • Take your time. Inhale by counting to three, then exhale and count to at least five to ten. Doing so will make you more conscious of your breathing patterns and encourage more fulfilling breathing.

  • Consider a yoga class that focuses on breathing techniques.

  • Take your time when climbing stairs or exercising and expect that you may be a little out of breath. Taking things too hard can result in dizziness or faintness. One thing you don't want to do is faint at the gym!

Usually simple awareness of our breathing patterns helps alleviate shortness of breath during pregnancy. If you are having symptoms you may find as your baby drops in the last trimester your symptoms rapidly improve!


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