Dizziness During Pregnancy: A Cause for Alarm?

Dizzy Pregnant

There are many reasons you might feel dizzy during pregnancy. Most dizziness during pregnancy is a reaction to the normal physical changes that take place.

For example, dizziness may accompany the nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness, which is common during the first trimester. If nausea prevents you from getting enough to eat, your blood sugar may plummet. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may also cause your blood sugar to drop.

Rising hormone levels cause blood vessels to relax and expand so more blood is delivered to the baby. While this expedited blood flow is beneficial for your growing baby, the process can affect your circulation, temporarily lowering your blood pressure, and causing you to feel faint.

During the last trimester your growing uterus can put pressure on your blood vessels. If you lie on your back, the baby may press on the vena cava, a large vein carrying blood to your heart, resulting in lightheadedness.

Usually such feelings of dizziness are temporary and will pass if you rest or, in the case of low blood sugar, eat. If dizziness is severe or lasts, be sure to discuss this symptom with your doctor.

Feeling faint can also be a symptom of a pregnancy complication known as preeclampsia, a condition in which women suddenly develop high blood pressure. This condition usually develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. Preeclampsia puts both mother and baby at risk, so it’s important to contact your doctor immediately if you experience dizziness, along with abdominal pain, headaches, nausea and vision changes.

Dizziness can also be a sign of anemia, caused by a poor diet or the inability to absorb iron. Diseases such as sickle cell and thalassemia can also cause anemia. Symptoms may include fatigue, headache, irregular heartbeat and chest pain.

Anemia has been linked to premature birth and a low birth weight, so screening is part of routine prenatal care.

Even if dizziness is usually harmless during pregnancy, you can minimize your chance of experiencing a bout. There are steps you can take to reduce dizziness.

  • Don’t stand for too long.
  • Get up slowly when lying down or sitting. Steady yourself when getting out of the bathtub.
  • Eat regular meals.
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Wear comfortable clothes that don’t cut off your circulation.
  • When you lie down, lie on your left side.

When you do feel dizzy, sit down and breathe deeply.

Joan MacDonald
Joan Vos MacDonald has written about health and fitness for newspapers, magazines and websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and the author of two books on health-related topics, "Tobacco and Nicotine Dangers," for young adults, and "High Fit Home," a design book about fitness and architecture. She lives in upstate New York near her children and grandchildren.

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