Breathlessness

 

Is this normal in pregnancy?
A certain amount of breathlessness on exertion, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy, is to be expected. This is mainly due to the increased demands of carrying around the weight of the baby as it grows. As the uterus gets larger, the diaphragm is pushed upwards, but the ribs flare outwards to compensate, so the overall lung capacity should remain the same.

What if I feel out of breath all the time?
Feeling short of breath just walking upstairs, or even when sitting down, could be a sign of anaemia. If you are concerned, you should contact your GP or midwife for a simple blood test to see if you need iron supplements. You may see the abbreviation S.O.B [short of breath] written in your notes.

What is air hunger?
If you are not anaemic, but feel short of breath, or feel the need to take big gasps of air when you breathe, this is sometimes described as air hunger. It is usually related to stress or anxiety, and is common during panic attacks.

If you think you may be experiencing panic attacks, especially if you did not have them before pregnancy, ask if you can have a double appointment or a home visit with your midwife so there is more time to talk. She will be able to refer you to get appropriate help and support.

However, more commonly in pregnancy, it is thought to be due to a hormonal response which causes an increased sensitivity to the presence of carbon dioxide in the blood. This helps with excretion of carbon dioxide from the baby. Although this complaint can be annoying, it is not harmful and there is no specific treatment, it will resolve spontaneously.