Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy

Breathing like you’ve just run a marathon when all you’ve done is walked across the room? Here are answers to your biggest questions about shortness of breath during pregnancy.
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profile picture of C. Joseph Cadle, MD
Updated July 10, 2017
woman's mouth open breath shortness

What is shortness of breath during pregnancy? It’s easy to be alarmed when you feel like you can barely catch your breath, but try to relax: Many pregnant women do feel winded, often starting in the second trimester.

What could be causing my shortness of breath during pregnancy?

It’s partially due to an increase in pregnancy hormones like progesterone, which stimulate your brain to tell your lungs that they need to take in more air. This can make you feel like you need to take more and deeper breaths. It’s one of those genius adaptations our bodies make during pregnancy to help get additional oxygen to the baby. In addition, the pressure from your growing uterus on your diaphragm (especially in the third trimester) can leave you feeling short of breath. Other conditions, like  anemia and  asthma could cause shortness of breath, too.

When should I go to the doctor with my shortness of breath?

If the shortness of breath seems severe, if your lips and fingertips develop a bluish tinge, or if you have  chest pain or a quick pulse, call your doctor immediately.

What should I do to treat my shortness of breath during pregnancy?

Thankfully, while normal shortness of breath during pregnancy is disconcerting, your baby isn’t in harm’s way, since he gets plenty of oxygen through the placenta. To help catch your breath, try to slow things down — don’t push too hard during exercise or daily activities. Try standing up straight (better posture equals more room for your lungs to take in air), and try propping yourself up in bed with pillows at bedtime.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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