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Shortness of breath in the pregnant woman

During the months of pregnancy, a pregnant woman often finds it difficult to catch her breath when she performs routine tasks such as climbing stairs or some housework, and doctors often suggest that the cause of shortness of breath when pregnant is due to the continued increase in the size of the uterus that pushes upward to put pressure on the lungs and makes breathing more difficult . According to a 2015 study, an estimated 60 to 70 percent of women experience shortness of breath during pregnancy.


Causes of shortness of breath for a pregnant woman

Shortness of breath during pregnancy is due to a variety of causes ranging from the growth of the uterus to changes in the functioning of the heart, so it is often difficult for a doctor to determine a single cause of shortness of breath despite it being a common symptom during pregnancy. Some women may notice changes in their breathing almost immediately, while others see a difference during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

In the first trimester

During the first trimester of pregnancy, the size of the fetus is not very large to cause changes in breathing, but the diaphragm rises in a pregnant woman by 4 cm, which affects the breathing process, the diaphragm is a muscle band of tissue separating the heart and lungs from the abdomen and its movement helps the lungs to fill with air.

In addition to the changes in the diaphragm, pregnant women breathe faster due to the increase in the hormone progesterone, which plays a fundamental role in the development of the fetus in addition to being a respiratory stimulant, which means that it causes the pregnant woman’s breathing to accelerate, and the amount of progesterone remains high in the woman’s body throughout the pregnancy.

In the second trimester

Pregnant women often experience more pronounced shortness of breath in the second trimester of pregnancy, as the growing uterus generally contributes to shortness of breath in this trimester, plus some changes in the way the heart works can cause shortness of breath as well.

Changes in the way the heart works during pregnancy is due to an increase in the amount of blood in the woman’s body, so the heart must pump more forcefully to move this blood through the body and to the placenta, and an increased workload on the heart can cause the pregnant woman to shortness or speed up breathing.

The last third

During the third or last trimester of pregnancy, breathing can become easier or more difficult depending on the position of the fetus’s head. Before the fetus begins to rotate and descend further in the pelvis, the mother may feel as if the baby’s head is placed under one of her ribs and puts pressure on the diaphragm, which may cause difficulty breathing.

According to the American Center for Health Resources for Women , this type of shortness of breath usually occurs between weeks 31 and 34 of pregnancy and if a pregnant woman feels severe and unusual shortness of breath it is necessary to speak to a doctor.

Some other medical conditions that contribute to shortness of breath


  • Psychiatric or neurological disorders: which often accompany pregnancy.
  • asthma:

Pregnancy may increase asthma symptoms, so a pregnant woman who suffers from asthma should talk to a doctor about safe treatments during pregnancy such as inhalations or medications.

  • Prenatal cardiomyopathy:

It is a type of heart failure that can occur during pregnancy or immediately after childbirth. Its symptoms include ankle swelling and low blood pressure in addition to fatigue and rapid heart palpitations. Women often attribute these symptoms to pregnancy, but this condition can seriously affect a woman’s health and often requires treatment.

  • Pulmonary embolism:

A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot hits an artery in the lungs. The blockage can severely affect breathing and cause coughing and chest pain.

How to cope with shortness of breath during pregnancy

Feeling short of breath can limit a pregnant woman’s physical activity and make her feel uncomfortable, but fortunately there are several steps pregnant women can take to make breathing more comfortable, including:

  • Practicing good posture that allows the uterus to move away from the diaphragm as much as possible, as pregnancy support belts can make practicing this position easier. These belts are available in stores specialized in pregnant purposes and on the Internet.
  • Using pillows that support the upper part of the back when sleeping or lying down, which may allow gravity to pull the uterus down and give the lungs more space. Tilting slightly to the left in this position can also help the uterus move away from the aorta, which is the main artery that moves oxygenated blood. Across the body.
  • Practicing breathing techniques that are used in labor, in which case the pregnant woman has trained to use it during labor as well.
  • Listen to the body and slow down when needed, it is very important to take breaks if breathing becomes very difficult in the late stages of pregnancy and a pregnant woman may not be able to do the same level of physical activity as before.
  • If a pregnant woman has another underlying medical condition causing shortness of breath, it is imperative to follow the doctor’s recommendations for treatment.

When should a pregnant woman see a doctor?

Shortness of breath is a common symptom during pregnancy, but the appearance of some other symptoms requires seeing a doctor and seeking treatment. Pregnant women should seek immediate medical treatment when any of the following symptoms appear:

  • Blueness of the lips or one of the fingers.
  • Heart palpitations or high heart rate.
  • Pain when breathing.
  • Severe shortness of breath that appears to be getting worse.
  • whistling.

If shortness of breath is particularly bothersome or if you are experiencing it for the first time, you should speak to a doctor as the doctor may want to perform imaging tests, such as ultrasound of the legs, to rule out blood clots as a possible cause of shortness of breath.


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