Pregnancy brings many changes to your body. Your clothes will no longer fit. You may need afternoon naps and as the pregnancy progresses, you will periodically have trouble breathing. Three out of four pregnant women report trouble breathing. There are several reasons for shortness of breath during pregnancy. Understanding what they are and what to do about it will put your mind at ease.
Early in Your Pregnancy
Early in the pregnancy, a natural hormone called progesterone begins to increase. While this is normal and healthy, it can interfere with your breathing. Typically, it becomes difficult to get a deep breath. You may also feel like you’re having to put out more effort to get air into your lungs.
A Bit Further Down the Road
The uterus enlarges during pregnancy to accommodate the growing baby. As the uterus grows, it presses against the bottom of your diaphragm. The diaphragm is an organ that works in conjunction with your lungs to take air in and let it out. When your uterus presses against the diaphragm, its ability to expand is restricted, causing breathing difficulties.
Anemia occurs when there is too little iron in your blood. If it becomes severe, it can cause trouble with your breathing. Other symptoms of anemia include extreme fatigue, pale skin, dizziness and brittle nails. Anemia needs medical treatment, so contact your physician if you’re exhibiting any of these symptoms.
How to Fix it
Eliminating heavy lifting — bags of groceries or laundry bundles — will reduce the strain on your body and help you breathe better. Ask the grocery clerk to bag your food lightly or better yet, get your husband to carry it in while you relax in a chair. Speaking of chairs, during the last trimester you should always choose a straight-backed chair over a cushy, sink-into chair. A straight-backed chair will help you maintain your posture, which reduces the baby pressing against your diaphragm. Wearing loose fitting clothing helps with breathing, as well. Tight clothing, especially around the mid-section, can put pressure on the diaphragm and impede breathing. Elevating your head at night with an additional pillow will open up your breathing passages and allow you to breathe easier. Some women find they need two additional pillows at night.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Shortness of breath when accompanied by a red or swollen leg may be a medical emergency. If this happens, contact a health care provider immediately. Shortness of breath accompanied by a fever or green and yellow sputum should be discussed with your doctor at the earliest possible opportunity. If you find yourself adding more pillows as the pregnancy moves forward, bring it to your health care provider’s attention. On rare occasions, the need for more pillows is caused by a heart condition.