As exciting as being pregnant may be, the whole process can be tough on your body—even more so if you're having twins or multiples. Real Housewives of Orange County star Meghan King Edmonds is currently 33 weeks pregnant with twin boys and says she’s definitely uncomfortable—to the point where she is having some trouble breathing.
“I’m getting miserable,” she told People. “I feel like the babies are like, in my ears. And most definitely in my lungs. I am really struggling with breathing. You can really tell in my Instagram Stories. I’ll listen to them back and I’m breathing so heavily just doing nothing. Plus, I can’t feel my legs. And bending over is, like, a thing in the past.”
Edmonds says she’s “so ridiculously pregnant, I can hardly move off the couch,” adding, “We just had a cleaning lady come today—I don’t even know how she did, because I’m too tired to look. That’s where I’m at.”
Edmonds isn’t the only pregnant woman who is vocal about having to work harder to breathe lately. Cardi B, who is due in July, announced in late April that she had to cancel the rest of her tour because she’s having difficulty catching her breath. “Shorty keep growing and I be looking like I be moving and everything, but in reality, a bitch can barely breathe,” she said in a video posted on Instagram.
Having trouble breathing is common in pregnancy—especially when you’re pregnant with multiples.
While you can have this at any point in your pregnancy, most women experience shortness of breath in the last trimester of their pregnancy, Jessica Shepherd, M.D., a minimally-invasive gynecologist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, tells SELF.
Part of this is simply due to your changing anatomy: “So much growth occurs in the third trimester and the babies push your uterus against your diaphragm, making it harder to breathe,” Dr. Shepherd explains.
But there are subtler explanations, too. For instance, you have a higher level of the hormone progesterone in your system during pregnancy, which can cause you to breathe faster than you would normally, according to Harvard Medical School. That can make you feel like you're out of breath.
Additionally, the growing baby and placenta generates more carbon dioxide, Shannon M. Clark, M.D., an associate professor of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch and founder of BabiesAfter35.com, tells SELF. “The mother is responsible for breathing out this extra carbon dioxide so it will not be retained,” she says. This effect is also greater when you're having multiples because there are more babies and more placenta, Dr. Clark adds.
With twins or multiples, the uterus also gets bigger more quickly than in a pregnancy with a single baby, which can put extra pressure on the lungs and decrease how much they’re able to expand, Christine Greves, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, tells SELF.
So it's understandable that you might find yourself breathing a little harder than usual while doing seemingly simple things, like walking to your car or going up a flight of stairs.
Actually "struggling" to breathe is concerning, though.
We don't know exactly how severe Edmonds' symptoms really are. But “women should never ‘struggle to breathe’ in pregnancy,” Dr. Clark says.
If you feel like you’re actually battling to take breaths, there could be a few things at play, Dr. Shepherd says. For one thing, asthma can get worse during pregnancy, she points out, so you may be experiencing an exacerbation of your usual symptoms.
Also, some women develop anemia (insufficient iron levels in the blood), which can cause shortness of breath as well as fatigue and headaches, Dr. Shepherd says. It’s also possible to develop conditions like pneumonia during pregnancy, which would definitely impair your breathing, Dr. Greves says.
But there's also a risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which develops when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs, the Mayo Clinic says. Pregnancy puts you at a higher-than-normal risk of having a DVT because it increases the pressure in the veins in your pelvis and legs. This is especially dangerous because a clot formed by DVT can break loose, travel through your bloodstream, and lodge in your lungs, where it can become a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism causes a (usually sudden) shortness of breath or other difficult breathing and is potentially fatal.
Even if you don't think you are dealing with a serious issue like a blood clot, Dr. Clark says you should definitely call your doctor if you’re having chest pain, rapid heart rate, dizziness, coughing, or you are unable to climb a normal flight of stairs or walk any distance without getting so out of breath that you have to sit or lay down.
If you're pregnant—especially if you're pregnant with multiples—it's crucial to avoid excessive activity and take breaks from moving around when you need to, stay hydrated, stay cool in the summer, and pay attention to your body in general above all. If something feels off, get in touch with your doctor.