Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy

image001When you are pregnant, especially during the last trimester, the expectant mother will experience an increase in shortness of breath as the uterus expands, limiting the lungs capacity. The pregnancy hormones also stimulate increased breathing to help compensate for the limited breathing space within the abdomen. The increased breathing is to ensure that the there is enough oxygen for the mother and her baby.

Below we highlight ways that you can increase your breathing capacity and efficiency while coping with the shortness of breath during pregnancy.

Is It Normal to Experience Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy?

It is normal to experience shortness of breath especially in the final trimester and this may also be experienced early in the pregnancy. However, in early pregnancy it is more of the increased need to breathe as opposed to breathlessness. The breathlessness you are experiencing is a result of the body changes.

In the first trimester, the ribcage becomes broader to give you increased lung capacity. Progesterone also could be responsible as it helps your body adapt to its new way of absorbing oxygen within the bloodstream and through the lungs. As a result of all these changes, the body becomes more sensitive to the carbon dioxide that is exhaled. The changes are a good thing because it shows that the body is processing oxygen and carbon dioxide better. While your breathing rate is the same as it was before you conceived, it’s much deeper which is why you feel breathless. Some women are more aware of this change than others and therefore feel the breathlessness more.

In the last trimester, the baby’s size has increased greatly, contributing to breathlessness. At this stage, the uterus pushes the diaphragm higher which then puts pressure on the lungs, leading to the shortness of breath. While the huffing and puffing are not enjoyable, they are normal and harmless.

How Long Will Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy Last?

For first time mothers, the baby will normally drop to the pelvis or engage at around 36 weeks, and this is when the shortness of breath may ease up. Naturally, your hormone progesterone levels plummet after you deliver your baby and this immediately relieves the pressure on the uterus and diaphragm. That said, it may still take you a couple of months before your breathing system goes back to normal. If you have been pregnant before, the baby may not engage until the very end of the pregnancy.

It’s important to be aware of your body and if you still can, enjoy some light exercises. Your lack of fitness may increase your breathlessness which makes light workouts very important. You should be able to exercise and still hold a conversation without running out of breath. The baby also needs to get enough oxygen and this can be done while working out.

How to Relieve Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy?

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Sit and sleep in right posture

  • Give your lungs enough room to expand by sitting up straight with your shoulders back.
  • When sleeping, you can prop your body upwards with some pillows for some relief.

Practice yoga

Yoga can help you learn to control your breathing. You might want to undertake gentle exercises such as swimming and walking because they increase your ability to breather deeper and maintain your fitness levels too.

Practice breathing exercises

Breathing exercises can help and you can do these for 10 minutes every day. These breathing exercises help inflate your lungs to capacity and you can do breathing exercises even after you give birth to help relieve your compressed lungs and inflate them back to normal.

Try this breathing technique

Standing can also relieve the pressure from the diaphragm and promote better breathing.

  • Inhale deeply with your arms raised upward and to the side.
  • Then exhale slowly while bringing your arms back to down. Remember to raise and lower your head while breathing.
  • You can place your hands on your rib cage to ensure that you are breathing in air into the chest and not the abdomen.
  • Your ribs need to push out when inhaling and it’s recommended that you focus on the deep breathing effect so that you can practice it whenever you feel shortness of breath.

Learn lung exercises to treat breathing difficulties like shortness of breath during pregnancy:

How to Prevent Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy?

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Eat healthy

Eating healthy can prevent shortness of breath. A healthy diet promotes healthy weight and this generally makes it easier for you to breathe. Avoid unhealthy foods with high sugar, salt and fat content.

Keep hydrated

Drink enough water and avoid beverages that make you pee frequently such as tea, coffee, alcohol or soda. The drinks are labeled as diuretics and they can dehydrate your body. The tannin present in tea and coffee also prevents the absorption of iron.

Eat iron rich foods

Eat foods rich in iron such as dark green leafy vegetables, red meat and dark berries. Also increase your intake of Vitamin C, as it helps your body absorb iron.

Consume dark beans with caution

While beans are a great source of protein, they need to be consumed in moderation. Too much beans, especially the dark colored ones may deter your body’s effectiveness in absorbing iron.

Avoid strenuous tasks

Don’t push yourself. Learn to ask for help when you need to lift heavy objects such as grocery bags. You can also talk to your manager to relieve you from strenuous tasks at work.

When Should You Be Concerned?

While breathlessness is considered normal during pregnancy, you need to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations or racing heartbeats
  • Severe shortness of breath or faintness after sudden activity
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down
  • Chest pains especially when exerting action
  • Being anemic or asthmatic: Fatigue and breathlessness may be a sign of low iron levels or anemia. Anemic women need to have enough oxygen to go around and for the baby as well. If you are asthmatic, you may want to talk to your doctor about the risks the condition poses to you and your unborn child. Usually, not controlling the condition may pose a greater risk than the medication.