Can’t catch your breath during pregnancy?

The majority of pregnant women will at some stage (most likely in the third trimester) experience shortness of breath. This can leave you feeling winded and make even the smallest tasks more challenging.

pregnant, labour, contractions

What causes shortness of breath?

Your body needs more oxygen during pregnancy to make sure that both you and your baby are getting enough. This together with hormone changes (particularly the hormone progesterone) directly affects your lungs and stimulates the respiratory centre in the brain. This results in you taking slower breaths. So while the amount of breaths you take changes very little, the amount of air that you take in and let out with each breath increases.

In the third trimester as your baby grows and your uterus stretches there is less room for your internal organs. This can result in your uterus pushing up your diaphragm which in turn will slightly compress your lungs. All of this means that once this happens, you take in less air with each breath – resulting in shortness of breath.

As you near the end of the third trimester from around 36 weeks onwards you should get some relief once baby drops down into the pelvis.

You should get some relief once baby drops down into the pelvis

 

Is there anything I can do to help?

There are a couple of things that you can try to help you breathe easy:

  1. Practice good posture – Make sure that you keep your back and your shoulders straight so that your lungs have a little more room to move.
  2. Relax – The more anxious you get about shortness of breath the more trouble you will have breathing. It is easier said than done but try to stay calm. It’s also important that you don’t over-do it. Make sure to have a rest when you are feeling tired and set aside some “me-time” for relaxation each day.
  3. Practice breathing techniques – classes like pregnancy yoga can help to teach you different breathing techniques for helping to get your breath back.
  4. Exercise – any form of aerobic exercise will improve your breathing and lowers your pulse. Make sure that it is not too strenuous and again don’t over-do it, take a break when you need it.
  5. Sleep on your side – sleeping propped up on your left hand side in particular is the best position for circulation.
  6. Lift your arms – for short term relief lift your arms up into the air to relieve the pressure on your rib cage and hopefully allow you to breathe easier.

 

As frustrating as breathlessness may be it is not bad for you or your baby. Your baby will still be receiving oxygen from the placenta. However, if you feel that your breathlessness is severe or if you suffer from conditions such as asthma speak to your healthcare professional if you have any concerns.