Breathlessness During Pregnancy
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Since you've been pregnant, have you found yourself panting when you've climbed to the top of the stairs, or sounding like you are on a power walk when trying to conduct a phone call walking around your kitchen? Breathlessness is yet another side effect of pregnancy that affects a lot of women, even those who are still exercising regularly.
Why am I so breathless?
Breathlessness is most commonly reported from the beginning of the second trimester onwards. Once again, we can blame this on hormones, especially during the second trimester. Your hormones stimulate your respiratory system increasing the frequency and depths of each breath. Hormones are also responsible for relaxing the muscles of the lungs and bronchial tubes which is why it can seem hard to catch your breath at times. The size of your ribcage tends to increase during pregnancy (you may have noticed that your bra size across your back has gone up) to enable you to take in more air on each breath. These changes occur in your body to ensure that you are better at processing both oxygen and carbon dioxide.
As you enter the final trimester you may be feeling breathless for another reason. As the baby grows, the uterus will start to push upwards against your diaphragm (the thin, dome-shaped sheet of muscle that inserts into the lower ribs) making it harder for them to expand to their full potential. This may feel more noticeable on the occasions where your little one seems to have settled themselves with their feet digging into your ribs!
If you are finding that you are breathless all the time, or you're actually struggling for breath, or if you have chest pains or any other symptom that you are worried about then make sure that you seek medical advice immediately.
What can I do about breathlessness?
Women who are less fit tend to suffer more from being out of breath during pregnancy, so make sure that you exercise regularly, unless advised otherwise by your midwife or health practitioner. During exercise, make sure that you do not over exert yourself. Light breathlessness is fine, but if you are unable to talk whilst exercising or if you find yourself panting then you are doing too much and should slow it down.
There is not a lot that you can do to prevent being short of breath during pregnancy, but whenever it happens make sure that you sit down and let yourself rest. Do not continue with what you were doing if it is making you more out of breath.
You may find that in the very last weeks of your pregnancy breathing becomes easier again. This is likely to occur as the baby drops lower into your pelvis ready for delivery, leaving your lungs with more space to function properly.
As long as the breathlessness remains mild and you do not have any other symptoms, there is no need to worry. Your baby will be receiving all the oxygen that it needs via the placenta.