Feeling short of breath is a common complaint presented by many pregnant ladies. Shortness of breath is often felt in late pregnancy, due to the growing fetus and increasing demand. But shortness of breath during early pregnancy is equally common and most of the times, absolutely normal. However, it is obvious that would-be-moms might get worried about shortness of breath during early pregnancy, so being aware of its causes and ways to deal with it can help.

What Causes Shortness of Breath during Early Pregnancy?

What Causes Shortness of Breath during Early Pregnancy?

Early weeks in pregnancy are marked by hormonal changes and commonly bring out many changes in the body and mind. An increase in the hormone progesterone affects the lungs and usually causes an increase in the oxygen demand. There is slow increase in lung capacity, which also increases the oxygen carrying capacity to provide nourishment to the growing fetus. This naturally increases the breathing, which makes it feel as if there is shortness of breath.

In addition to this, a feeling of being pregnant in the first few weeks is different. It may give a feeling of responsibility and can even cause a bit of anxiety about the new feeling. These factors too contribute to increased shortness of breath during early pregnancy, which can be short-lived, until newer emotions settle down. Pregnant ladies who are overweight, those having twins or previous history of respiratory disorders may experience more shortness of breath.

During early pregnancy, the rib cage widens upwards and outwards to prepare for increased lung capacity. Pregnant women may often feel the upper chest area being broadened and clothes may begin to tighten around the area. These changes are meant for better utilization of more oxygen, so that the growing baby gets adequate nutrition. While the breathing may remain the same as before, the amount of oxygen inhaled in at once is increased, which makes it appear as shortness of breath. Simply said, these changes are normal and when they occur, it means that things are going well.

Other Medical Causes of Shortness of Breath during Pregnancy

Sometimes, shortness of breath during early pregnancy can indicate medical problems. These generally include respiratory troubles like asthma, pneumonia, infections of the lung or other lung diseases. On rare occasions, pulmonary embolism, in which a blood clot enters the lungs and block airways, can occur in some women.

Such conditions may be associated with other symptoms like cough, chest pain on breathing, palpitations, bluish discoloration of lips, etc. Immediate medical attention should be sought and necessary medications would be given. Pregnant women with a history of respiratory illnesses are often advised flu shots, during flu season.

Ways to Deal with Shortness of Breath in Early Pregnancy

Shortness of breath may be felt by some pregnant women and is a normal course of pregnancy. So the first thing is to avoid being anxious about it. Although, most pregnant ladies experience shortness of breath at some point or other during pregnancy, the growing baby in the womb is fine and happily receiving the required oxygen.

However, pregnancy is a period when health and lifestyle should be given prime importance and due care needs to be taken.

Before Pregnancy

Proper planning of pregnancy and having the required resources along with emotional support at hand is essential during early pregnancy. In a planned pregnancy, it would be worth to consider a healthy diet and fit lifestyle before conception. Managing a healthy weight is very important to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Eat a diet which includes loads of fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water. Avoid junk foods, smoking and alcohol. Get into a habit of regular exercises, walking or jogging to keep yourself fit. Keep a check on your weight and follow a nutritional plan to meet an ideal weight. Keep hemoglobin levels maintained. Consult your doctor for the right diet, nutritional supplements like iron and calcium, vitamin B12 and folic acid. Consider immunizations that would be required based on personal medical history and the prevailing conditions.

During Pregnancy

Even in the early pregnancy, based on doctor's recommendation, nutritional supplements are required. Now the focus changes to maintaining health and providing enough nutrition to the growing baby. Hence a balanced meal, fresh fruits and vegetables, dry fruits and active life still remain the mainstay.

However, when experiencing shortness of breath, it is necessary to go slow with the active lifestyle and pace out the daily activities.

  • While being active is important, care should be taken to avoid pushing too much and overexerting oneself.
  • Sitting upright helps to relieve pressure on the lungs. Maintain a straight posture, with the back straight, shoulder at the back and chest outwards, giving enough room for the lungs to expand.
  • Meal times should be spaced out and smaller frequent meals can be taken, instead of heavier ones. This will help to reduce the pressure on breathing and will help to cope with increasing oxygen demand.
  • Drinking lots of water and maintaining diet to keep gastric disturbances and bloating away is equally important.
  • Regular fitness regime that includes walking, breathing exercises, yoga and relaxation techniques will surely help.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: July 7, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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