Causes of Shortness of Breath in Early Pregnancy: 10 effective ways to cope with this symptom

Shortness of Breath in Early Pregnancy

What to Know about Shortness of Breath in Early Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a miraculous period that brings significant changes to a woman’s body. As the baby grows and develops, the mother’s body undergoes various transformations to accommodate the new life inside her. One common experience that some pregnant women encounter is feeling shortness of breath in early pregnancy. While this sensation can be concerning, it is often a normal part of pregnancy. In this article, we will explore the reasons why some women feel short of breath during pregnancy and when it might signal a cause for concern.

What Causes Shortness of Breath?

In early pregnancy, shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, is linked to increased levels of progesterone. According to the research, about 60-70% of expectant mothers experience shortness of breath in early pregnancy. The first trimester is challenging as your body adjusts to new hormonal levels. Additionally, your organs are squeezed and pushed aside as your baby grows inside your abdomen. Your lungs may not have enough space to expand with a full breath. There are other causes of shortness of breath in early pregnancy:

Hormonal Changes

During pregnancy, hormonal fluctuations can lead to changes in the respiratory system. Increased progesterone levels cause relaxation of the smooth muscles in the airways, leading to a slightly reduced lung capacity and a feeling of breathlessness.

Growing Uterus

As the baby grows, the uterus expands and pushes against the diaphragm, the muscle responsible for breathing. This can lead to a feeling of pressure on the chest and difficulty taking deep breaths.

Increased Blood Volume

Pregnancy leads to an increase in blood volume to support both the mother and the baby. This increased blood flow can cause the heart to pump faster, leading to a faster breathing rate and a sensation of shortness of breath in early pregnancy.

Elevated Metabolic Rate

Pregnancy increases the body’s metabolic rate, leading to an increased demand for oxygen. As a result, pregnant women may feel like they need to take more frequent breaths to meet their body’s oxygen needs.


Some pregnant women may develop anemia, a condition characterized by low levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin. Anemia can reduce the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, leading to feelings of breathlessness.

Posture and Compression

As the baby grows larger, it can shift the mother’s center of gravity and cause changes in posture. This change in alignment may also affect how the lungs expand, contributing to shortness of breath in early pregnancy.

When to Worry about Shortness of Breath during Pregnancy?

In most cases, feeling shortness of breath in early pregnancy is a normal and expected symptom. However, there are situations where it may indicate a potential problem, and it is essential to seek medical attention if:

  1. Shortness of breath is severe, sudden, or accompanied by chest pain.
  2. Shortness of breath is persistent and does not improve with rest.
  3. The mother has a history of respiratory conditions such as asthma or lung disease.
  4. There is a rapid or irregular heartbeat, dizziness, or fainting.
  5. There is a cough, wheezing, or coughing up blood.

In such instances, it is crucial for the pregnant woman to contact her healthcare provider promptly to ensure that there are no underlying medical issues that require attention.

How to Cope With Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy?

As the body undergoes significant hormonal and physiological changes to support the growing fetus, it can lead to feelings of shortness of breath in early pregnancy and discomfort. While it may be unsettling, there are several effective ways to cope with this symptom and ensure a more comfortable pregnancy journey.

Practice Deep Breathing

Engaging in deep breathing exercises can help improve lung capacity and oxygen intake. Take slow, deep breaths through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process several times a day to calm your breath and reduce feelings of breathlessness.

Maintain Good Posture

Proper posture is crucial for enhancing lung capacity and preventing shortness of breath in early pregnancy. Keep your shoulders back and spine aligned while sitting or standing to allow for better airflow to your lungs.

Avoid Triggers

Identify any triggers that may exacerbate shortness of breath, such as strenuous physical activity, smoking, or exposure to allergens. Minimize these triggers to ease your breathing.

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can contribute to feelings of breathlessness, so it’s essential to stay well-hydrated during pregnancy. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated and support optimal respiratory function.

Pace Yourself

Listen to your body and pace yourself during daily activities. Avoid overexertion and take breaks when needed to conserve energy and reduce breathlessness.

Elevate Your Head

Elevating your head while sleeping can alleviate pressure on the diaphragm and make breathing more comfortable. Use an extra pillow or consider investing in a pregnancy pillow to provide proper support.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Eating a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients can support overall health and aid in managing shortness of breath. Include foods high in iron and folic acid, as they are essential for healthy blood circulation and oxygen delivery.

Stay Active

Engaging in regular, low-impact exercises, such as walking or prenatal yoga, can improve lung function and help manage shortness of breath. Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise routine.

Wear Comfortable Clothing

Opt for loose-fitting, breathable clothing that allows for unrestricted movement and proper airflow. Tight clothing can constrict the diaphragm and worsen breathlessness.

Seek Support

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider if you experience severe or persistent shortness of breath in early pregnancy. They can evaluate your symptoms and provide appropriate guidance and support.


Remember that experiencing shortness of breath in early pregnancy is a normal part of the process. By implementing these coping strategies and taking care of your overall well-being, you can effectively manage this symptom.

However, if there are any worrisome symptoms or pre-existing medical conditions, it is essential to seek medical advice to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the baby. With regular prenatal care and attention to one’s health, many women can navigate the beautiful journey of pregnancy with confidence and joy.

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