Emphysema, a kind of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), can significantly interfere with your lung function, making it more difficult to breath. Shortness of breath is a common symptom of the condition, which is also quite common in women with pregnancy. The next question, can emphysema occur during pregnancy?
What happen in emphysema?
Your lungs are sponge-like structures protected by the strong, ribcage. These structures are filled with millions of alveoli (tiny air spaces or air sacs), where oxygen (O2) that you get when breathing is transferred to the circulation /bloodstream and carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the blood for elimination with exhaled breath. The air sacs (alveoli) of the lung are clustered like bunches of grapes.
Emphysema can destroy alveoli, making them eventually to rupture. This makes the available space for gas exchange decrease significantly, because there will be one bigger air space instead of many small ones.
In other words, this respiratory disease can decrease the surface area of the lungs for oxygen-rich air to enter. As a result, the normal amount of oxygen that reaches and enters your circulation is affected, and the body doesn’t get the oxygen as well as it needs.
Shortness of breath is the main symptom. You may find difficulty to catch your breath and have chronic cough. In severe case, shortness of breath can occur even while you’re at rest.
But there is usually no early sign and symptom of the disease. You may have it for many years and you don’t notice the symptom until it becomes advanced.
Unfortunately, so far there is still no cure. The damage can be permanent and irreversible. But some treatments are available to help relieve the symptoms and control the progression of the disease.
Shortness of breath and pregnancy
You may begin to feel winder as your baby grows over the course of your pregnancy, even after minimum amounts of physical exertion. The exact cause is not known, but the increased hormones of pregnancy (the usual suspect) are often to blame.
Pregnancy hormones stimulate the mother’s brain to boost the frequency and depth of breaths, allowing more oxygen to enter. These hormones also stimulate:
- The capillaries of the respiratory tract to swells.
- The bronchial tubes and muscles of the lungs to relax more.
And as the pregnancy progresses, the baby growth and expanding uterus can compress more the lungs. This can limit the ability of the lungs to expand, making you feel like you’re running a marathon when you’re only climbing a flight of stairs. This could be a lot to cope with, especially in late pregnancy.
Feeling of breathlessness might significantly improve as you get close to your delivery, when the baby moves down into the pelvis so thus there will be more space and room for the lungs – though, of course, the heavy load could be another problem for being out of wind during the end of pregnancy.
The good news, mild breathlessness during pregnancy is usually normal. Many pregnant women are no strangers to this symptom. But if you do worry about your breathlessness, ask your doctor for more advice!
Can emphysema occur during pregnancy?
Emphysema might occur during pregnancy. But this doesn’t mean that pregnancy is to blame.
There is no link between emphysema and pregnancy. However if you’re pregnant and have emphysema, you need to be more careful to protect your lungs – because being pregnant means you’re now essentially breathing for two!
The following are other frequently asked questions that may help.
Is emphysema common in pregnancy?
No it’s not! It is rare in pregnancy. Cigarette smoking is the main cause of the problem. And in non-smokers, emphysema is usually found at the age of 40 or older. It is also rare in women of reproductive ages.
In general, the risk of developing emphysema is higher in people with the following conditions /factors:
- Smoking, including for secondhand smoke. Again, getting exposure to tobacco smoke in long term is the main risk factor of the disease.
- Age, the risk increases with age. The disease is commonly diagnosed at older ages – particularly between the ages 40 and 60.
- Getting exposure to other air pollutants or airborne irritants, such as car exhaust, manufacturing fumes, and dust from grain.
If you do concern about your risk, ask yourself the following questions to see if emphysema or other lung diseases could be a problem in the future:
- Are you a smoker? Or do you have a personal history of an active smoker?
- Do you or have you worked /lived in environment that expose you to airborne irritants?
- Do you have a personal history of asthma or other lung conditions?
- Do you have a family history of COPD or other lung diseases?
Does shortness of breath in pregnancy mean you have emphysema?
As mentioned earlier, mild breathlessness can be a part of normal pregnancy. It’s quite common in pregnancy.
Shortness of breath is also attributed by a number of different causes. So having it during pregnancy doesn’t mean that you definitely have emphysema or COPD. But if this symptom gets worse, see a doctor promptly!
How to prevent lung disease during pregnancy?
Lung health is very important, especially when you’re being pregnant. Again you need healthy lungs to make sure that you and your baby get adequate oxygen over the course of your pregnancy.
Feeling of breathlessness can be a part of your normal pregnancy. However, lung disease is different matter. To keep safe, it’s better to adopt healthy habits and lifestyles as much as you can.
How to improve breathlessness, protect the lungs, and prevent lung disease during pregnancy? The following tips can help!