Short Breath During Pregnancy

When I was in my 3rd trimester, I started to notice how hard it was to TAKE A DEEP ENOUGH BREATH! The thing is, I would not have noticed this issue if I was not out of breath so often. While at first, I caught myself trying to breathe harder, I realized that it would be better to focus on opening up the thoracic (upper back) region so that I could breathe into my ribs more. This alone was a lifesaver to my upper body tension.

There are a few different ways we can breathe, here are the 3 most common ways:

  1. We can breathe UP. Watch someone breathe this way or try it yourself- your collar bones move up and down when breathing. This way isn’t good because it causes issues with the cervical spine and neck. This breathing is usually associated with stress.
  2. Another common strategy is to breathe down into the belly, plunging everything downward with every breath. Most who breathe down are not aware of this pattern nor of the challenge it introduces while pregnant. Those of us who tend towards belly breathing are the ones who feel this “I can’t get enough breath!” when breathing during pregnancy because baby is restricting the ability to do what we want to do – breathe. This breathing pattern isn’t ideal either because it increases intra-abdominal pressure and pushes our organs downward.
  3. The third way we can breathe is OUT- into the ribs. This is a more ideal way to breathe. Some call it 3D breathing. Our ribs are designed to MOVE this way and when we do so, we put way less pressure down on our core and pelvic floor.

Why is it so difficult to breathe OUT into the ribs?

Most of us have a rib cage that is restricted in some way from how we have moved and held our bodies throughout our lives. We’ve lost the ability to mobilize the upper back! As an example, sitting at a desk without moving much doesn’t help the mobility of our rib cage. So, yes, it IS going to be harder for most pregnant moms to breathe properly with these restrictions. In addition to being more mindful about rib breathing, we want to work on opening up the upper body, getting more mobile in common tight spots and gaining more space as we grow during pregnancy.

How to improve your upper body mobility?

Here are a few simple exercises that can really help with releasing upper body tension so that breathing becomes easier as well. These focus a lot on rotation. We are big fans of rotation because many pregnant moms are so locked down in their ribs that they cannot rotate, creating even more pressure in their core and pelvic floor and tension.

Chest and Shoulder Stretch and Strengthen + Core Work:

Sit comfortably. Hold both arms in front of you, inhale and as you exhale hiss the exhale slowly and twist your chest to the right ensuring that your hips are mostly stable. Keep gently twisting on each exhale and reach your right arm long long away from you. Keep your spine long, no slouching or excessive rib lifting / thrusting. Switch sides holding just a breath 6 times and then hold 5 breaths each side. Amazing for your spine, shoulders, chest and core.

Hands and Knee Rotation

Come to your hands and knees, knees a little wider than feet. A neutral spine so no tucking your pelvic or collapsing your chest. Inhale and raise your right hand toward the right, up to the sky. Turn your chest as you do so, twisting gently and allow your hips to shift to the right. Lift away from your left arm and try not to let your right shoulder fall into your ear so reach your right hand up to the sky. Gently move your chest in the direction of your nose (like back arching but way less). Hold 5 breaths and switch. This works your core, arms, spine and shoulders.


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