Why Am I So Breathless?

Why Am I So Breathless?

Regardless of which stage of pregnancy you are in, feeling breathless is a very common symptom. There are times when you need to catch your breath just to maintain a conversation! There are a few different causes of shortness of breath during pregnancy. Some are completely ‘normal’ and nothing to be concerned about, other than modifying your activities to make sure you don’t get too out of breath. Others require medical assistance from your GP or Ob, so it’s important to be aware of these common causes of breathlessness and seek help if you need to.

  • Hormone changes - an increase in progesterone causes your breathing rate to increase. This happens early on in your pregnancy and may come as a surprise as your body hasn’t changed much at this point and you may need to slow down a little sooner than expected to account for this.
  • Reduced space for lung expansion - as your baby grows within your uterus, the space your lungs have to expand is physically reduced, causing each breath to become shallower and therefore more frequent. This increase in your breathing rate will make you feel puffed even when you’re not exerting yourself. 
  • Changes in the shape of your thorax - your ribs will widen and your diaphragm has less room to depress, also reducing the depth of each breath. This goes hand in hand with the point above, causing you to feel short of breath during daily tasks that would have previously felt completely fine.
  • Low iron - this is very common in pregnancy and can lead to shortness of breath, as well as severe fatigue and lightheadedness. You can bring this up with your doctor at one of your standard visits and they can organise a test of your iron levels. 
  • Pre-eclampsia - in addition to shortness of breath, you may notice swelling in your hands, feet and face, a sustained headache, blurry vision and nausea. You should see your doctor as soon as you can if you notice any of these symptoms. 

As you can see, there are a range of different reasons you may be feeling breathless throughout your pregnancy. If you are unsure or feel like something isn’t right, it is always best to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and management plan. 

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