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Why Do Some Women Feel Short of Breath During Pregnancy?

Medically reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD

Feeling short of breath during pregnancy is quite common, and usually isn't cause for concern. But let your doctor know because lots of things can cause shortness of breath.

How Might Pregnancy Affect My Breathing?

As a normal part of pregnancy, your breathing might be affected by the increase in the hormone progesterone, which causes you to breathe in more deeply. This might make you feel as if you're working harder to get air. Breathing also might get harder as your enlarging uterus takes up more space, putting pressure against your diaphragm (the muscle below your lungs).

You should find it easier to breathe as your baby "drops" lower into your pelvis as you near delivery.

What Can Help?

To help make breathing a little easier:

  • Focus on good posture as you sit or stand — slouching doesn't give your lungs enough room to expand when you breathe.
  • Prop yourself up during sleep by putting some pillows under your upper body in a semi-sitting position. This will ease the pressure your uterus puts on your lungs.
  • Don't overdo it, whether you're exercising, running errands, or doing things around the house. Take your time and respond to your body's cues to slow down or even stop.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call your doctor if you feel short of breath and it:

  • started suddenly
  • is severe
  • seems to be getting worse
  • happens with pain, coughing, wheezing, or heart palpitations

These may be signs that something other than just pregnancy is causing it.

Medically reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2023