I’m 20 weeks pregnant and have noticed that I get short of breath very easily. Is this normal?
When you’re pregnant your lungs have to work much harder to meet your body’s increased oxygen needs. To help you take in more air, your ribs flare out and your lung capacity increases dramatically. This can make you feel breathless, particularly from mid pregnancy onwards.
In the last three months, most women find they get breathless even during mild exertion. This happens because your expanding uterus pushes up against the base of your lungs. Your breathing may start to get easier when your baby moves down into your pelvis ready to be born.
Being breathless can also be a sign that you maybe slightly anaemic (have a low haemoglobin), a blood test can check for this. All pregnant women should be offered screening for anaemia during their pregnancy 1. This should take place early in pregnancy (at the first appointment), and at 28 weeks. This allows for treatment if anaemia is detected. Generally an iron rich diet is advised in pregnancy and this will help to prevent or improve anaemia. Include foodstuffs such as lean red meat, beans, dried fruits, dark green vegetables, fortified cereals and bread. Try to include a vitamin C enriched food or drink as the presence of this enables the body to absorb the iron more efficiently. Sometimes iron tablets are necessary but it is usual to check first if these are needed with a blood test. So seek advice from your Midwife or GP.
1 NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) (2003). Antenatal care for the healthy pregnant woman. Screening for haematological conditions.