Shortness of breath during pregnancy: causes, management?

Many pregnant women feel short of breath. How to explain it? What are the factors? What support ? Answers with Dr. Thierry Harvey.

  Shortness of breath during pregnancy: causes, management?

Feeling short of breath is quite common when you are pregnant. While this may be perfectly normal in some cases, in others there will be an underlying cause that needs to be taken care of. Dr. Thierry Harvey, gynecologist-obstetrician, tells us everything there is to know about shortness of breath during pregnancy.

Why are pregnant women short of breath?

Causes prior to pregnancy

Several causes can be at the origin of shortness of breath during pregnancy, starting with a overweight , a pulmonary pathology (asthma for example) pre-existing or not, or the smoking past or present.

Pregnancy-related causes

Shortness of breath can also have a physiological origin, especially at the end of pregnancy. Indeed, the uterus takes up more and more space as the weeks pass. There may then be a pressure on the diaphragm , to which must be added the fatigue and the pounds that we have taken, which will lead to this shortness of breath. When a pregnant woman is short of breath, it can also be due to a medical reason: anemia , a 'frequent cause' of this loss of breath, and which can be diagnosed with a blood test, says Dr. Harvey.

When to worry about shortness of breath in pregnancy?

Pregnant women who feel short of breath should not hesitate to talk to the person following their pregnancy or to their doctor, who will ask questions to find out more. 'It's common to be short of breath when you're pregnant, but you shouldn't denigrate the patient's feelings by saying it's normal. You should know if this shortness of breath only occurs when physical effort is made, s 'it appears in the morning and lasts all day, if it is accompanied by other symptoms, the frequency, duration, etc.' , explains our

Vaccination against influenza, Covid-19 and whooping cough are strongly recommended for pregnant women

expert. If this shortness of breath is caused, as is often the case, by anemia, treatment can be put in place : 'If there is a lack of iron, we can set up supplementation or, if there is already one, adapt it. If the anemia is severe, we can do an infusion at the hospital, which lasts about 30 minutes. It is important to regulate the anemia because it could worsen at delivery, especially if there is a haemorrhage of the delivery ' . If the reason is a pulmonary pathology, a consultation in pulmonology can be organized. Finally, if it is a common pathology that causes this shortness of breath, such as flu for example, the problem generally disappears when cured, but be careful, diseases with a respiratory impact such as the flu or Covid-19 can have serious consequences on pregnancy. Pertussis, on the other hand, represents more of a risk for the baby after birth, if it is contaminated.

Why shortness of breath even at rest during pregnancy?

Pregnant or not, shortness of breath at rest is often a sign of anemia, says Dr Thierry Harvey. In this case, it is necessary to speak about it with your doctor to set up a treatment and to rest well.

Pregnant, why is it hard to breathe lying down?

Difficulty breathing when a pregnant woman is lying down is usually due to the diaphragm being compressed. In this case, she can use an extra pillow to be elevated, which will be more comfortable to breathe.

What to do in case of shortness of breath and palpitations?

“Shortness of breath and palpitations are symptoms of anemia ' , explains their Dr. Thierry Harvey. In this case, it is necessary to speak about it to their treating doctor or to the gynecologist or the midwife during the appointments of follow-up of pregnancy.

Pregnant, a link between shortness of breath and Covid-19?

Covid-19 is still relevant, and expectant mothers may wonder if their shortness of breath is related to this condition. This can indeed be a symptom, especially if it is accompanied by other signs of the disease (fever, cough, etc.), explains Dr. Harvey, but this is not always the case. If a pregnant woman is concerned about being infected with the coronavirus, she can perform an RT-PCR or antigen test to find out if this is really the case.

Reminder: the best ways to protect yourself against this virus are still vaccination , the wearing a mask and the barrier gestures .

How to catch your breath pregnant?

Several small exercises make it easy to catch your breath when you feel short of breath. The first can be practiced standing with your feet glued on the ground, or lying on your back with your legs bent, with your heels close to your buttocks. Inhale slowly through your nose, stretching your arms above your head, then exhale slowly, bringing your arms to either side of your pelvis. Another method is to breathe through your nose, exhaling longer than inhaling.