Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy: Causes and Relief

Shortness of breath during pregnancy is more common than it seems. Learn about its main causes and how you can alleviate it.
Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy: Causes and Relief
Andrés Felipe Cardona Lenis

Reviewed and approved by degree in physical education and sports Andrés Felipe Cardona Lenis.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Among the physical and physiological changes that occur during pregnancy, shortness of breath is one of the most common outcomes. You’ve probably read or heard about it, but experiencing it is a totally different experience.

The sensation of shortness of breath usually occurs at any time during pregnancy. However, it becomes much more common if the pregnant woman performs any unconventional physical exertion. Finally, the intensity of this symptom varies depending on the person and their lifestyle habits.

Here, we’ll show you the main causes and how you can alleviate it.

Shortness of breath during pregnancy and its possible causes

Shortness of breath or dyspnea during pregnancy stands out as one of the most common and annoying problems of pregnant women. This aspect is influenced by physical and physiological changes.

However, it should be noted that it’s a symptom related to the baby’s development. Shortness of breath indicates that your body is predisposed to the formation and growth of your future child, at least at the structural level.

Diaphragm elevation

An illustration of a fetus in the womb.

One of the most important physical changes occurs in the internal structures of the body. The growth of the fetus triggers some movements and compressions in the organs of the mother-to-be.

The elevation of the diaphragm occurs due to the growth of the uterus, which begins to “ask” for space inside the abdomen. This physical change causes the other internal organs to mobilize and push the diaphragm upward. This elevation forces the lungs to compress, which reduces your breathing capacity.

This stands out as a major cause of shortness of breath in pregnancy but is gradual in onset. In general, it begins to occur from the third month of pregnancy and it’s much more likely to be perceived in the last six months of gestation.

Hormonal changes

Hormones are protagonists during pregnancy and the ones that present more changes during the gestation process.

Progesterone and estrogen are the hormones involved in the alteration of breathing. These physiological changes usually occur during the first months of pregnancy. In general terms, their action is to encourage the arrival of oxygen from the blood to the placenta, which produces a lower amount of this gas to the maternal tissues.


Although anemia is one of the possible causes of dyspnea, it’s uncommon during pregnancy. However, there are some cases in which this disease influences the pregnant woman’s breathing. However, the most common symptom related to this condition is fatigue and tiredness.

How to relieve shortness of breath in pregnancy?

Experiencing shortness of breath can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first pregnancy. However, if it’s due to physical and structural causes, it’s possible to find a way to alleviate it.

Assimilate the changes

It’s not a very appropriate recommendation, but if you analyze it well, assimilating the sensation can give you greater calm and tranquility. You may even feel more comfortable, although it requires a lot of concentration and patience.

Adopt certain positions

One of the most important physical changes occurs inside the abdomen with the elevation of the diaphragm, and there are some positions that provide greater relief to the body.

The main posture is to keep the back straight and shoulders back. This allows the lungs to expand and give more space to the diaphragm. It’s also a good idea to lie on your left side and avoid lying on your back or stomach.

Perform breathing exercises

A pregnant woman practicing mindfulness in nature.

Breathing exercises allow you to control the intensity with which you inhale and exhale air. This way, you can relieve your shortness of breath and improve your breathing capacity.

For best results, perform these exercises outdoors and in green areas, in order to breathe healthily.

Shortness of breath during pregnancy: Do I need to see my doctor?

Shortness of breath during pregnancy is probably not a sign of something serious. However, you shouldn’t be overconfident and the best thing to do is to visit your doctor.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.