During the third trimester breathlessness increases in both frequency and intensity as your expanding uterus limits the ability of your lungs to expand with each breath. To compensate for cramping your breathing space from below, pregnancy hormones stimulate you to breathe more often and more efficiently, just to make sure you and your baby are getting the oxygen you need.
Here are seven ways to increase the efficiency and capacity of your breathing and to cope with feelings of breathlessness during the third trimester:
1. Change position as soon as you feel breathless.
2. Slow down when you feel short of breath. Listen to your body’s signals that you are exceeding your limits.
3. Try breathing exercises to raise your rib cage and promote more chest breathing (deep abdominal breathing obviously becomes more difficult as your uterus grows).
* Stand up (this will relieve some of the pressure on your diaphragm): * Inhale deeply while raising your arms outward to the sides and upward. * Exhale slowly as you bring your arms back down to your sides. * Raise and lower your head as you inhale and exhale.
* To be sure you are breathing more into your chest than down into the abdomen, check for rib cage expansion by placing your hands on the sides of your rib cage.
* Make your ribs push out against your hands as you inhale deeply. Focus on how this deep chest breathing feels so that you can switch to it whenever the crowding of your uterus on your lungs makes abdominal breathing more difficult.
4. Practice breathing for labor: slow, deep, relaxed breathing rather than shallow panting. (This is the type of breathing used throughout labor if you are learning the Bradley method. If you are using the Lamaze method this is the type of breathing you’ll be doing throughout much of the active stage of labor.)
5. Exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise, began early in your pregnancy, improves the efficiency of both the respiratory and the circulatory systems.
6. Experiment with sitting and sleeping positions that help you breathe more easily. Sitting in a straight chair using correct posture – chest lifted, shoulders back – is easier on the lungs than sitting slumped over in a recliner. Sleep semi-reclined, propped up on pillows. Or try elevating your head with an extra pillow while sleeping in the side-lying position.
7. Know when to seek help. If you experience sudden, severe shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain, rapid breathing, or a much more rapid pulse, or severe chest pain while taking a deep breath, seek medical attention immediately. This could be a signal that a blood clot has dislodged and settled in your lungs – a rare, but serious problem.