Especially if you were fit before your pregnancy, losing your breath when performing simple tasks seems like a reasonable cause for concern. Running a half marathon before you became pregnant was easier than going up a flight stairs with your baby bump because you become winded at the third step. While losing your breath can be frightening at times, it is actually a common side effect of pregnancy. Many women experience it, and unless you’re really having trouble breathing and there are other side effects, you don’t need to rush to the doctor. There are a few harmless reasons you might be losing your breath.
You might experience breathlessness even in your first few weeks of pregnancy. While this seems outrageous because you have very few other symptoms, it’s actually because your body is sending more oxygen to the fetus. The hormone progesterone is doing its job and increasing your lung capacity so that you can take in more oxygen. That extra oxygen is then sent down to assist in the development of your baby. So, you might feel like you’re not getting enough because your body and breathing patterns are not adjusted to this newly added space in your lungs.
Later in your pregnancy, your growing uterus will more likely cause your breathlessness. Your baby bump will begin to push up against the surrounding organs, including your lungs. You might feel like you can’t get a full breath in because, frankly, you can’t. Most women experience this most at 31 weeks and later when the uterus begins pushing against the diaphragm.
If you start feeling short of breath during your pregnancy, your first instinct will be to panic. Instead, you should relax, as panicking will only make it harder to breathe. Stop what you’re doing and breathe slowly and deeply, and soon you’ll catch your breath. You should also try improving your posture so that your lungs can easily reach full capacity. If you find it difficult to breathe through the night and upon waking up, try sleeping in an upright position, as it could be a sign that you sleep in a way that restricts the lungs. Amazingly, you might notice that your breath returns to normal in your last few weeks of pregnancy because your baby will drop down to the birth canal. Breathe deeply and start getting ready, because you’ll be a mom in no time.
- Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.