Feeling that pregnancy breathlessness? Try these tips.
As you reach the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy you may well find you’re huffing and puffing a lot more - a common pregnancy side effect is breathlessness. There are a few reasons for this:
As baby grows the uterus expands and takes up more space in your abdomen. This pushes your other organs out of the way, which leaves your lungs with far less room to expand with each breath. So you’re not imagining it, it really is harder to breathe when pregnant!
Your blood volume increases during pregnancy, meaning your heart has to work a lot harder to pump it around the body and through the placenta to baby. This is good because more oxygen is being pumped through the body, but not so great as it makes the breathlessness feel even worse.
During pregnancy your body produces progesterone, which can make you breathe a bit faster. When you’re breathing fast you can’t breathe deeply, hence the breathlessness feeling.
So what can you do to help the feeling of gasping for breath? My number one tip is going to be pretty obvious - slow down and take a break! Too often we try to do everything to the same level we did before pregnancy, but let’s face it - your body is growing a whole other human, so it deserves a break! Please do listen to your body and rest when you need to.
Another thing to be aware of is your posture. When you slump forward, or slouch back on the sofa, you’re putting more pressure on your bump, and therefore more pressure on your organs too. Try sitting or standing more upright, with shoulders back. It might help to prop yourself up on some cushions, and at night time use some pillows to support you as you lie on your side. Your bump is probably feeling pretty heavy by now, and this can also cause strain to your back and shoulders, so try standing up and doing some gentle arm rotations - big circles forwards and backwards - to help open up your shoulders and chest.
Some people find it helpful to wear a pregnancy belt (sometimes called a belly band, bump support etc). This helps to gently lift your bump and alleviate some of the pressure. Do make sure you’re fitting it correctly though so as not to cause any injury to your bump.
Practising some breathing techniques is not only helpful now during pregnancy, but can also come in handy during labour too. You could try breathing in for 4, and out for 4, and then gradually extending the out breath (in for 4, out for 4, in for 4, out for 5, in for 4, out for 6 etc). If the in/out breaths are too long for you at first just do what feels comfortable; the more you practise the easier it will get. Being able to focus on and control your breathing like this is definitely a positive coping strategy during contractions - your body needs oxygen as those muscles are working overtime!
Lastly, try some gentle yoga poses, or simply rest on all fours. Any position where you’re on hands and knees means your bump is putting less pressure on your back and organs, which can be a real relief. The polar bear pose (forearms/elbows resting on the floor, knees on the floor, bum in the air) is especially comfortable, even more so if you place a cushion on the floor beneath your knees so you can rest there for a while.