During pregnancy, coughing, and the wheezing and shortness of breath that can come with it, can look a lot like coughing and wheezing outside of pregnancy, and can be caused by a lot of the same things. On the other hand, sudden and unexpected coughing and wheezing can be a sign of pregnancy complications, as well, and preexisting conditions like asthma, which cause coughing and wheezing, are especially important to manage during pregnancy.

What causes it?

During pregnancy, the immune system may have a harder time fighting off colds and flus than at other times. Women who have a history of asthma may also find that asthma symptoms become more serious during pregnancy, and can interact with other pregnancy symptoms and conditions like severe morning sickness and preeclampsia, which is why it’s important to monitor asthma carefully during pregnancy.

Sudden wheezing or gasping for breath, or a cough that brings up frothy sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus), which may be tinged with blood, however, can be signs of a sudden pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs.


Treating a cold-related cough during pregnancy is similar to treating a cold-related cough at any time, but it’s important to be careful about over-the-counter cold medications during pregnancy. Combination medications, especially, can have unexpected active ingredients that aren’t recommended during pregnancy, so it’s always a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider before using over-the-counter medication.

If you have a history of asthma, it’s important to work with your healthcare provider to work out the right treatment plan for you during pregnancy. The severity of asthma during pregnancy is related to the severity of asthma before pregnancy, so the right treatment for you will depend on your medical history.

If coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath appears suddenly, and isn’t accompanied by normal symptoms of cold or asthma, it could be a sign of pulmonary edema, so contact 911 or your local emergency number, and seek medical care right away. Pulmonary edema is rare during pregnancy, but in cases where it does occur, it’s a dangerous condition for both mother and baby.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Pregnancy and asthma: Managing your symptoms.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, May 20 2015. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Pulmonary edema.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. Web.
  • Anthony Sciscione, et al. “Acute Pulmonary Edema in Pregnancy.” Obstetrics and Gynecology. 101(3). Web. March 2003.
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