Is Breathlessness During Pregnancy Normal?
Yes. Most women experience some form of breathlessness during pregnancy. By the end of your pregnancy, your blood volume will have increased by nearly 50%. Blood needs to be oxygenated. And your body is working hard to provide you, and your baby, with the oxygen you need.
Usually, breathlessness is a completely normal, if uncomfortable, symptom. However, there are times when breathlessness can be a sign of something more serious. In this article, we outline the reasons behind pregnancy breathlessness. And let you know when it’s nothing to worry about, and when you should be on the phone with your doctor.
What Causes Breathlessness in Pregnancy?
Your breathlessness could have a number of different causes, depending on your stage of pregnancy. Here are the most common causes of breathlessness in each pregnancy stage.
Breathlessness in Early Pregnancy:
The pregnancy hormones, particularly progesterone, increase in your body. As the body adjusts to new hormonal levels, breathlessness during early pregnancy is common.
Breathlessness in Pregnancy Second Trimester:
In the second trimester, breathlessness is slightly less common. It can be a symptom of low iron (anemia) and is worth discussing with your doctor or midwife. But, it may simply be your uterus beginning to put pressure on your lungs, as it will in your third trimester.
Breathlessness During Pregnancy Third Trimester:
In the third trimester, breathlessness is literally caused by your lungs being crunched by your growing uterus – there’s just not enough space in there! It’s exactly the same reason that you need to pee every five minutes. Your lungs, like your bladder, are being squashed by your baby.
Don’t worry, though. There is a little light at the end of the tunnel. Around 3 to 4 weeks before delivery, you’ll experience the lightening, when your baby drops into position. This takes the pressure off your lungs and can also relieve heartburn. Unfortunately, this may increase the pressure on your bladder!
How Can I Ease Breathlessness During Pregnancy?
Try one or two of these simple strategies to ease your breathlessness:
- Try and keep your posture nice and straight – shoulders back, spine elongated – this helps to encourage better airflow.
- If you suffer breathlessness at night, try propping yourself up with extra pillows to give your lungs room to expand.
- Make sure you keep up with regular exercise and get plenty of fresh air – being unfit can also lead to breathlessness.
If your breathlessness can’t be eased using any of these strategies, or you feel a sense of panic about not getting enough oxygen, it could be a sign of something more serious. Read on to find out when breathlessness needs medical attention.
Can Breathlessness in Pregnancy be Dangerous?
Yes. If you are experiencing severe breathlessness during pregnancy, it may mean that your baby isn’t getting the oxygen he or she needs. If you suffer from asthma, it may be a sign that your pregnancy has worsened your condition. Also, even if you’ve never had asthma before, you could be experiencing pregnancy induced asthma. Find out more about asthma during pregnancy here.
Breathlessness can also be a symptom of pneumonia, which can cause pregnancy complications. Blood clotting in the lungs is also a rare, but serious condition which breathlessness can indicate.
You should contact medical professionals right away if:
- Breathing becomes rapid or you find you are hyperventilating.
- Breathlessness is accompanied by dizziness or fainting.
- You have symptoms of asthma: wheezing and chest pain.
- You are asthmatic and your symptoms worsen.
- The breathlessness makes talking difficult.
- Your lips, fingers, or toes develop a blue tinge.
- You have a persistent cough, chills, or fever.
If you are at all concerned, you should always contact your medical professionals. There’s no harm in being told that everything’s fine. And, it may be that you catch a symptom before it turns into a nasty complication.
Frequently Asked Questions about Pregnancy Breathlessness:
Question: Is breathlessness an early sign of pregnancy?
Answer: It can be. But breathlessness can be caused by so many other factors that it’s unlikely to be a conclusive sign of pregnancy. Also, you’re unlikely to experience breathlessness before week 4 of pregnancy, when you will already have had a positive pregnancy test result.
Question: I’ve been getting breathlessness while lying down during pregnancy. Is this normal?
Answer: Yes. The position you lie can affect how much oxygen you’re getting. Try lying in a different position (like on your left side instead of your right) or propping yourself up with pillows.
Question: I have asthma. Is it safe to use medication to control breathlessness during pregnancy?
Answer: Yes. The latest thinking is that it’s far safer to expose the unborn fetus to asthma medication than to cut their oxygen supply in the way that asthma does. Read more about pregnancy asthma here.
More Pregnancy Symptoms and Information:
Our site is full of user-friendly articles about every pregnancy symptom, sign, and issue under the sun. Here are a few of the symptoms you might be experiencing at the same time as breathlessness. Click to find out more: