How To, Pregnancy, Women Guide

How to Overcome Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy?

Shortness of breath during pregnancy is one of the complaints that many pregnant women suffer from. Already during the first trimester of pregnancy, the adaptation of the body to the pregnancy can lead to more or less obvious air problems.

Many women suffer from shortness of breath during pregnancy.

In the last trimester of pregnancy, the growing uterus and the baby press more and more on the diaphragm, so that the lungs of the mother has less and less room to develop. The consequences are shortness of breath and sometimes quite severe respiratory distress. Shortness of breath during pregnancy is dangerous neither for you nor your baby. Your body also signals to you that it wants more rest.

Shortness of breath in pregnancy – a harmless and utterly normal phenomenon

Shortness of breath during pregnancy is a safe and completely normal phenomenon. At the beginning of pregnancy, the body also adapts to the needs of the expectant life – after all, it now has to provide two people with oxygen. Your oxygen demand, therefore, increases noticeably in the first trimester of pregnancy, at the same time your respiratory rhythm changes.

The gradually increasing blood volume during pregnancy also plays a part in these processes. The more blood circulates in the body, the higher the oxygen requirement. Therefore, the breathing depth of pregnant women increases, by the end of pregnancy, their tidal volume will be grown by about 25 percent.

Not all pregnant women perceive the change in their breathing from the outset, others suffer greatly, as the shortness of breath intensifies the already existing in the first weeks of pregnancy fatigue.

Also, hormonal factors play a role in the development of shortness of breath during pregnancy – among other things because the effects of the pregnancy hormones widen the blood vessels. However, the better blood circulation also causes many women to suffer from a permanently blocked nose at the latest from the middle of their pregnancy.

In the second trimester of pregnancy, the shortness of breath, if at all, usually only very moderately noticeable. The body has adapted to pregnancy and the new rhythm of breathing has become normal.

More severe respiratory problems usually do not recur until the third trimester and are now mainly caused by the growth of the uterus and child. Physical exertion is now also troublesome due to the pressure on the uterus and the resulting breathing problems.

As soon as the baby’s head sinks into the small pelvis, the mother’s breathing – and also the food – finally lightens again, as the pressure on the lungs and diaphragm is gone. For many babies, the time has come in the 36th week of pregnancy.

When do you have to go to the doctor?

Normally, shortness of breath during pregnancy is not a sign of illness but is part of the normal course of pregnancy. You only have to go to the doctor if the respiratory problems are very stressful for you or if you have other complaints.

However, if there is heart palpitations, chest pain, wet hands, blue lips, or blue fingers along with the shortness of breath, a doctor’s visit is urgently needed. These symptoms may conceal other illnesses or pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia (hypertensive gestosis, “pregnancy poisoning”), which must be treated promptly.

Asthmatics should be advised in detail by their midwife or their gynecologist on the behavior of acute respiratory distress. You should also visit a lung specialist in difficult cases. You must learn to distinguish between shortness of breath in pregnancy from an asthma attack. Incidentally, asthma often goes back a long way in pregnancy – many women get sick much better during this time.

Another cause of shortness of breath in pregnancy may be a previously unrecognized iron deficiency, which must be treated by the additional administration of iron supplements to ensure an adequate supply of the vital trace element.

During the check-ups, your doctor will also use a blood test to determine whether your iron balance is balanced and you prescribe a suitable preparation. Important: Self-medication with iron are taboo because excess iron settles in the internal organs and thereby can harm the health of your baby.

What helps against shortness of breath in pregnancy?

You can not completely prevent shortness of breath during pregnancy, as normal physical processes cause it. Preventive measures, however, ensure that complaints do not become too stressful.

A balanced diet, abundant drinking and plenty of exercise in the fresh air to avoid too much weight gain and dehydration, which also increase the shortness of breath. Iron-rich foods like red meat, green leafy vegetables, whole grain products and dark berries help prevent iron deficiency.

Your midwife will be happy to show you breathing exercises that are important during childbirth but can also help with breathing problems during pregnancy. Breathing also plays a role in the birth preparation courses. Through gentle yoga, you not only combine movement and relaxation but also learn to control your breath.

You may want to try a simple exercise in your everyday life: Take a break and try to inhale and exhale consciously and concentratedly for about ten minutes. You get to know your natural breathing rhythm and give your lungs an opportunity to expand. Concentrated breathing also helps you to relax both physically and mentally.

Make sure you have adequate rest during your pregnancy. The hustle and bustle, stress as well as physical or emotional strain also increase the pregnancy-related breathing problems. For a restful night’s sleep, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy is recommended a sleeping position with an upper body – to relieve your circulation on the left side if possible.

What helps with acute shortness of breath?

Acute breathlessness is very uncomfortable and may even panic you. Be aware that there is no reason for that. Try to calm down and relax. Take your time, sit or lie down with your upper body, take a deep breath and think of pleasant things.

Some women swear in such a stressful situation on the so-called “rescue drops.” Take enough time after such an attack – switch off and rest. The shortage of air is also a sign that you need more rest.

When shortness of pregnancy becomes so severe that you suffer greatly, acupuncture, osteopathy or chiropractic can help relieve pressure, blockages and tension and restore your body’s balance. Talk to your midwife or doctor about these treatment options.


  • Shortness of breath is usually harmless.
  • Shortness of breath cannot hurt you or your baby.
  • In the first trimester of pregnancy, shortness of breath is a concomitant of body adaptation to pregnancy.
  • In the last trimester of pregnancy, the growing pressure on the uterus affects the diaphragm and lungs.

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