Dyspnea, commonly known as shortness of breath, is one of the common problems faced during pregnancy. Shortness of breath can also be considered as an early symptoms of pregnancy. Generally, dyspnea doesn’t cause any harm to the mother and the growing baby. But still, in some severe complicated conditions, it can lead to difficulty in breathing.

Reasons of breathlessness during pregnancy

An increase in levels of progesterone is the main cause of increase in shortness of breath during the first trimester of pregnancy, explains Dr. Anjali Chaudhary (PT), senior executive physiotherapist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Noida.

it is basically due to increased capacity of lungs. The body adjusts itself to the new hormonal changes. However, other medical conditions such as asthma, anemia and pulmonary embolism, too can contribute to the same. Suitable precautions should be taken for the treatment of asthma and other underlying conditions.

Keep a check on breathing patterns. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

As the size of the baby grows, other organs get compressed and start changing their position. At around 31st week to 34th week, the growing size of the belly exerts pressure on the diaphragm (the main muscle for breathing). This increase in the size restricts the lungs to expand fully and take in air.

Towards the end of pregnancy, the foetus head settles into the pelvis and eventually exerts less pressure on the diaphragm muscle. Therefore, the shortness of breath eases during the last few days of pregnancy.

How to handle the shortness of breath during pregnancy

You can try various breathing techniques and tips to manage and cope up with the situation of dyspnea or shortness of breath. By following these simple tips you can ease down the breathlessness.

1. Maintain a good posture:

Posture during pregnancy is important. Slouching while sitting will affect your lungs as lungs will not get enough space for expansion while breathing in. This may result in less oxygen intake. Sitting on a chair with your chest slightly bent forward can help relaxing the body and in creating extra space for breathing.

Standing with your back well-supported by a wall and body slightly leaned forward can also help relieve shortness of breath.

2. Sleep in a relaxed position

Dyspnea often leads to inability to sleep at night, leading to waking up several times and creating disturbance in sleep. To avoid this, sleep on the back with head elevated using extra pillows and knees bent with pillows below the feet. The right sleeping posture during pregnancy helps in keeping the airway relaxed and making breathing better.

sleeping posture during pregnancy
The right sleeping posture during pregnancy is important. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Pursed lip breathing:

A very easy and a simple breathing technique that makes each breath deeper by helping release trapped air in the lungs, can help to manage shortness of breath during pregnancy.

Follow the simple steps to perform pursed lip breathing:
* Sit with shoulders relaxed.
* Slowly take in air through nose and keep the mouth closed while inhaling.
* Gently exhale or blow out air with pursed lips as if about to blow a candle.
* Practice for 5-10 minutes for about three to four times a day.

4. Diaphragmatic breathing:

Diaphragmatic breathing is basically deep breathing exercise which is also known as abdominal breathing or belly breathing.

To do diaphragmatic breathing or belly/abdominal breathing, follow these steps:

* Sit on a chair or simply lie down comfortably with knees bent and upper body relaxed.
* Place one hand on the chest and other below the rib cage (over the abdomen/belly) so that you can feel your diaphragm movement while breathing in and breathing out.
* Breathe in slowly and steadily so that the abdomen rises fully while doing so, making the hand to rise. Make sure the hand on the chest stays still.
* Then slowly exhale through pursed lips but make sure the abdomen lowers down while doing so and the hand on the chest remains still.
* Start practicing this exercise for 5-10 minutes for about three to four times a day. Gradually increase the number of times and even place a book over the abdomen to increase the efforts.

deep breathing
Deep breathing is good for lungs. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

5. Deep breathing with arm raise:

Deep breathing exercise with raised arms raises the diaphragm to open up the lungs. This helps to increase the capacity of the lungs and results in more oxygen uptake. It is similar to deep breathing, but along with breathing, hand movement is added.

* Stand and take a deep breath while raising arms slowly over your head. Exhale as you lower your arms. Repeat several times a days or whenever you feel breathlessness.
* Seeking Medical Help for Shortness of Breath during Pregnancy

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