Shortness of Breath in Pregnancy


The feeling of bringing a new life into this world through your womb is divine. Possibly ,no other emotion could be on par with this. This progenetiveness gives us the satisfaction of carrying forward the human race.

But as goes the old saying, “nothing comes for free in this world”, pregnancy brings with it its own set of problems. In this article we are going to discuss one such issue – shortness of breath during pregnancy.

Read More: Asthma during Pregnancy: Sign, Symptoms, Risk, and Treatment

Is Breathlessness Normal In Pregnancy?

Shortness of breath happens in almost 60 to 70% of expectant mums. In medical terms it is called Dyspnea or air hunger – a feeling of being hungry for air. Though uncomfortable , it is absolutely harmless.

When does it happen?

In the first trimister breathing feels heavy due to the increase in the pregnancy harmone progestrone (the obvious culprit). Progestrone increases the capacity of your body to absorb more oxygen into the blood stream and push out more carbondioxide. This process overwhelms our body making it gasp for air.

As we step into the third trimister our breathing becomes more laboured. Simple day to day activities like climbing a flight of stairs or walking a little distance feels like running a marathon. Breathlessness towards late pregnancy is mainly due to the expanding belly . The growing uterus which is accomodating a growing fetus , pushes the diaphragm and the lungs upwards making it harder to take deep breath. Carrying multiples or having excessive amniotic fluid increases the problem all the more.


breathlessness pregnancy

The problem subsides a little when you are nearing your due date, this is because the baby descends to the pelvic area, giving some space for the lungs to expand. This is called “ Lightening”.

How do I tackle breathlessness during pregnancy ?

You can try the below given tips for some relief :

* Have patience and take things light. Being patient when you are gasping for air all the time is no easy task. But still ,relaxing patiently and going slow on physical activity would give you some relief.

* Maintain a good posture while sitting or standing. Never stoop. Keep your shoulders straight , so that your lungs get enough room to expand.

* When in bed, experiment with your sleeping positions. Lie in a position which is most comfortable to you. Generally, lying on the left side and propping up with pillows are said to provide some relief.


* Try some breathing exercises. Breathing exercises raise your rib cage and promote more chest breathing. Deep abdominal breathing is not possible with an – out of proportion belly so better avoid it.

* Aerobic exercises, began early in your pregnancy improve the efficiency of respiratory and circulatory systems. Some forms of yoga and swimming are also believed to provide some relief.

* Finally do not panic. Relax! You and your baby are getting enough oxygen to stay healthy. Placenta provides your baby with all the vital things needed for survival.

Read More: 11 Home Remedies to Treat Asthma During Pregnancy

Could shortness of breath indicate an underlying illness ?

If your breathlessness has started all of a sudden, is severe and is associated with pain like chest pain , wheezing , severe coughing and plummating pulse rate then it could indicate severe illness and has to be addressed immediately.

What else could be the the reason of breathlessness?

* Sometimes shortness of breath could be a sign of anaemia. Low iron levels cause tiredness and palpitations.


* Asthama could be another reason for breathlessness. Asthama could be fatal to you and your baby and hence should never be overlooked. Visiting your practioner is very much necessary in that case.

* Rarely , breathlessness can be caused by pulmonary ebolism where one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot. This also makes visit to your doctor mandatory.

Will dyspnea affect my baby ?

Relax ladies ! Unless your breathlessness is caused by some serious medical condition do not freak out. Your baby will never be devoid of oxygen, as the placenta will take care of all her needs.

Executive summary

Shortness of breath happens in almost 3/4 th of the pregnant mums-to-be. The increase in the harmone progesterone leads to breathlessness in the first trimister. Progestrone makes your body absorb more oxygen into the blood stream increasing lung capacity, leading to gasping for air. In late pregnancy, your growing baby and expanding uterus shove your diaphragm and lungs upwards restricting the amount of space for your lungs and making it hard to breathe.

Following little tricks like maintaining a good posture, slowing down physical activity ,propping oneself with pillows, light exercises and relaxing could be of great help.


Asthama ,anaemia , heart disease, pulmonary ebolism are other causes of breathlessness and need immediate attention from your doctor.

Breathlessness does not affect the baby unless it is due to some serious illness. So, relax mums, be patient and slow down a bit to glide through your pregnancy smoothly.