Breathlessness during pregnancy: what can help with breathing problems?


Many pregnant women experience breathing difficulties or breath­less­ness. Even at the start of pregnancy, breathing can sometimes be some­what more arduous. Here are the reasons, and what tips and exercises help.

Breathlessness and brea­thing difficulties in early pre­gnan­cy

In early pregnancy, the body has to get used to an increased amount of blood and also needs more oxygen for this extra blood. This explains why pregnant women get out of breath more quickly than usual. An iron deficiency can also theoretically lead to breathlessness. However, blood tests conducted during pregnancy will usually identify a deficiency very quickly.

Breathing difficulties in the third trimester

The more advanced the pregnancy, the more the uterus enlarges and pushes the diaphragm and lungs upwards. This is particularly noticeable when the body is under exertion. The lungs can't expand as much on inhalation and the woman has more trouble breathing or experiences breathlessness.

Fewer breathing problems from week 34

It’s not until week 34 of pregnancy – when the baby turns its head downwards – that the pressure on the diaphragm and the upper abdomen decreases. However, there's now greater pressure on the bladder.

Breathing problems when lying down and at night

Some women experience more breath­less­ness or breathing difficulties when lying down or at night. One reason may be the mucous membranes in the nose: the increased blood flow during pregnancy can make it harder to breathe through the nose, especially at night.

What to do if you ex­pe­rien­ce breath­ing difficulties during pregnancy?

  • Lie with your upper body raised a little
  • Make sure there's enough humidity in the bedroom
  • Exercise is recommended during pregnancy too, pre­fe­ra­bly in the fresh air
  • Breathe deeply into the stomach and do breathing exercises regularly

TIp: helpful breathing exercises are also demonstrated at antenatal courses. Participants not only learn breathing techniques to help relieve pregnancy symptoms, but other techniques to help ease the birth too.

Frequently asked questions

Is it dangerous for the baby if I suddenly get out of breath?

No, if you only get out of breath for a short time, nothing happens to the baby. Only prolonged periods of breathlessness should be avoided. Give yourself short breaks when climbing stairs or when you get out of breath.

What do asthmatics have to watch out for?

Pregnant women can’t always tell the difference between an asthma attack and short-term breathlessness. But, in contrast to short-term breathlessness, a severe asthma attack can be harmful. At their first pregnancy examination, asthmatics should therefore discuss what to do in an emergency and whether an appointment with a respiratory specialist is necessary.

When you should see a doctor

If you have breathing difficulties in combination with chest pain, you should contact your doctor immediately. You should also seek medical advice immediately if you have severe breathing difficulties after eating or after an insect bite.

What would you like to read now?