While it may make you feel alarmed or anxious, breathlessness during pregnancy is actually very common; up to three-quarters of women experience breathlessness during one or more trimesters. Shortness of breath is most common during the third trimester. Your baby experiences the most rapid growth during the third trimester, and the rapid growth pushes your uterus firmly against your diaphragm, which causes your lungs to compress. As a result, you are not able to take in as much air with each breath as you could before you became pregnant. However, the hormone progesterone and your overall blood volume are increased during pregnancy. Even though you are taking in less air, the breaths you take stay in the lungs much longer; this enables you to obtain the necessary oxygen that both you and your baby need.
Can You Experience Shortness of Breath Outside of the Third Trimester?
If you have put on a lot of pregnancy weight, due to edema or other health-related issues, it is common to experience breathlessness much sooner than the third trimester. Women who are pregnant with multiples also experience breathlessness as early as the first trimester. If you have been bedridden or have decreased your physical activity, you may also find yourself feeling winded early in the pregnancy. Breathlessness during pregnancy can be very frightening. In most cases, however, it is a completely harmless and natural phenomenon.
Ways to Overcome Breathlessness During Pregnancy
One of the most effective ways to minimize breathlessness, improve posture and help alleviate pain in the lower back is by standing tall. Stand as erect as you can by lifting your head and your chest while pulling your shoulders back. This gives your lungs room to expand, and it also aligns your spine to help minimize lower back pain. You can also clasp your hands above your head and breathe deeply to help increase the flow of oxygen.
Any form of low-impact aerobic exercise can help to improve your breathing, and it also lowers your pulse. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine while pregnant. Once you have your doctor’s approval, you can begin a light walking, swimming or yoga routine. If you become unable to carry on a conversation while you are exercising, you are overdoing it and should decrease your movement.
If you are having trouble sleeping at night due to shortness of breath, you can prop yourself up with more pillows to alleviate back pain and increase oxygen intake. Many women invest in plush or firm body pillows during pregnancy. Body pillows are great for side sleepers, and they can help position the body in a way that minimizes excess pressure that leads to breathlessness.
Breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation techniques can all help to ease your anxiety and increase the flow of oxygen. It only takes five minutes of meditation or deep breathing to increase oxygen and reduce anxiety and stress levels. Find a dark and quiet room and lie down or sit with your eyes closed. Begin breathing in for a count of five through your nose, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of five. Focus on each breath intently and envision the oxygen flowing deep into your lungs.
A healthy and balanced diet can also help minimize breathlessness during pregnancy. Greasy, salty and sugary foods are unhealthy for you and your baby, and they often cause conditions that lead to breathlessness. Greasy, fried and fatty foods can cause indigestion, heartburn and intestinal upset. Salty foods can cause your blood pressure to rise significantly in a short period. Sugary foods can cause jitters and sluggishness when you inevitably experience a sugar rush and crash. All these conditions can lead to feelings of breathlessness. A balanced diet that is rich in lean meats, fruits and vegetables will help you breathe better during pregnancy.
The feelings of breathlessness actually get better as you approach your due date. Once your baby descends towards your pelvis to prepare for birth, the pressure on your diaphragm and lungs will significantly improve. After you deliver, your progesterone hormones plummet to return to a more normal level; breathing should return to normal within a week or two after delivery.