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Respiratory complications during pregnancy are not unusual and can be life threatening. A careful interview and physical examination, a chest x-ray, and an arterial blood analysis are the most useful interventions in the evaluation of these conditions.

Understanding of the cardiorespiratory changes during pregnancy is essential for the diagnosis and treatment of emergencies in normal pregnant women and in women with underlying cardiopulmonary diseases.

Authors of previous edition.


Oxygen is the basis of every aerobic reaction in our organism. The procurement and delivery of oxygen is a vital process that the pregnant woman has to perform for herself and her unborn child. Nature has ensured adequate mechanisms of adaptation in order to exchange oxygen with air and deliver it to her unborn child (and adapting body) through complex anatomic (Table 12-1) and physiologic changes (Table 12-2).

TABLE 12-1Anatomic and Physiologic Respiratory Adaptations to Pregnancy
TABLE 12-2Changes in Respiratory Variables During Pregnancy

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