Breathlessness or chest pain - Warning signs during pregnancy

Breathlessness is common during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester (weeks 27 to 40).

The size of your womb and the position of your baby can make it difficult for your lungs to expand. The extra weight you are carrying may also make you feel short of breath.

Immediate action required: See your GP, obstetrician, midwife or emergency department immediately if:

  • the breathlessness is sudden or severe
  • or you have breathlessness and chest pain, heart palpitations or dizziness

Other causes of shortness of breath during pregnancy include:


Anaemia (being low in iron) can cause shortness of breath.


This could be a cause especially if you have some of the other symptoms of pre-eclampsia.

These are:

  • a headache
  • blurred vision
  • upper tummy pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • swelling of your hands, feet, ankles, face and/or neck

Pulmonary embolism

This is a life-threatening condition. Pulmonary embolism happens when a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or clot in a vein of your lower leg moves to your lungs.

You may also have chest pain, particularly when you take a deep breath in or cough.

You may also notice that your heart is beating faster than usual.


If you suffer from asthma, pregnancy may make your symptoms more severe. Talk to your GP urgently if you have a history of asthma and notice your shortness of breath is getting worse.

Lung infections and pneumonia

If you have a cough that lasts more than 2 to 3 days always see your GP. Simple infections make you sicker in pregnancy than they normally would.

This is one of the reasons why it is recommended that you receive the flu vaccine during pregnancy.


Other warning signs during pregnancy

There are other warning signs to watch out for during pregnancy. They could mean you're experiencing pregnancy complications or a medical emergency.

They can also be signs of a common ailment during pregnancy.

Warning signs include:

Immediate action required: Contact your midwife, GP or obstetrician immediately if:

  • you are worried about any aspect of your pregnancy
Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 26 March 2018
Next review due: 26 March 2021