During pregnancy, your body undergoes a lot of changes, and some of them may make you more apt to feel dizzy or light-headed. Some women even faint during pregnancy. In fact, a common old sitcom trope was to have a woman faint to indicate she was pregnant in the days when pregnancy was not discussed over the airwaves.
While fainting does not happen to every pregnant woman, dizziness is a very common and normal pregnancy symptom. There are many reasons why you may become dizzy during pregnancy, and it is not usually an indication that something is wrong. But as with all unfamiliar pregnancy symptoms, you should talk to your doctor or midwife about it at your next prenatal care appointment.
Reasons for Dizziness During Pregnancy
One of the things that change drastically in pregnancy is how much cardiac output ramps up. Your heart has to work 30% to 50% harder during pregnancy—you’re building a human, after all— and this increased output starts fairly early in gestation.1 As your body adapts to pregnancy, your heart works harder and your blood volume increases to take care of your needs and the needs of your baby.
Sometimes certain positions or conditions may lead to you feel a shift in your blood pressure causing you to feel off-balance or out of sorts. Some reasons that you may be dizzy in pregnancy can include:
- Changing positions suddenly, particularly when getting up, known as postural or orthostatic hypotension
- Lying on your back, particularly after the fourth month of pregnancy
- Not enough food or calories, which may lead to low blood sugar
- Low blood pressure or anemia
Sometimes, you can lessen the degree of dizziness you feel. To help avoid feeling dizzy or light-headed, you need to address the causes that may be adding to the feeling.
For example, if you are experiencing dizziness when you stand up suddenly or get out of bed, sit up slowly, swing your legs over the side of the bed and sit there for a minute before standing. Stand up after you’ve gotten your bearings, and go slowly.
You should also make sure that you are always well hydrated and well-fed. Many women experience blood sugar fluctuations during pregnancy, so snacking on protein and carbohydrates can help to steady blood sugar. Snacks may work better for some women than bigger meals, particularly in the later trimesters.
Hydration is important for a whole host of reasons in pregnancy. For example, proper hydration can also help prevent you from overheating. While pregnant, you should aim to drink 12 eight-ounce servings of water a day.
What to Do If You Feel Dizzy or Faint
If you feel dizzy, stop what you’re doing and sit down, even if it’s on the floor. You should not drive, operate heavy machinery, or do anything involving balance. Sit down until the spell passes and you no longer feel as though you might pass out. If you can, have someone bring you water and a snack.
For most people, the biggest risk is falling if you actually pass out. This is why it is very important to sit down when you start feeling woozy. Sitting can help protect you from falling if you were to lose consciousness.
When to Worry About Dizziness During Pregnancy
Dizziness is common, but you should still talk to your healthcare provider about it. If you suffer from mild dizziness, bring it up at your next pregnancy check-up. However, if it occurs frequently or you actually pass out, call your doctor.
Dizziness accompanied by slurred speech, disturbed vision, or other worrisome symptoms may be a sign of a more serious problem and you should call your health practitioner right away.