Dizziness during pregnancy is a frequent complication caused by the various metabolic and physiological changes in the body. Therefore, it could be a pregnancy symptom as well. Dizziness can also be caused by disorders that restrict blood flow or glucose to the brain.
While some women feel dizzy (vertigo) during the first trimester, others may experience it throughout the pregnancy. Although dizziness is a common pregnancy symptom, you should seek medical attention to determine and address any underlying causes.
Read on to know the various causes, complications, treatments, self-care suggestions, and preventative tips for dizziness in pregnancy.
Causes Of Dizziness Or Lightheadedness In Pregnancy
Dizziness in pregnancy could be due to various reasons in each trimester.
- Hormonal changes: Blood vessel relaxation and dilation due to rising hormonal levels can be the reason for dizziness or lightheadedness during pregnancy. Relaxed blood vessels may slow down the return of blood to the vein, resulting in blood pressure changes. Due to this, mothers may have lower blood pressure (hypotension). This may reduce blood supply to the brain resulting in temporary dizziness.
- Low blood glucose: Changes in metabolism may cause low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) during pregnancy.
- Ectopic pregnancy or tubal pregnancy: Bleeding from an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus) may cause dizziness due to blood loss and low blood pressure. Women may also experience abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding with fainting. This is usually seen in the first trimester and requires emergency medical treatment.
- Hyperemesis gravidarum: According to the Medical University of South Carolina, 0.3 to 3 percent of women experience hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy. The extreme morning sickness with severe nausea and vomiting may cause dizziness due to water loss. This may begin around the fourth week of pregnancy and may last longer than the first trimester in some women.
- Pressure on blood vessels: In the second trimester, a growing fetus can exert pressure on the blood vessels. This may interfere with normal blood supply to the brain and often result in dizziness.
- Gestational diabetes: Pregnant women with gestational diabetes may feel dizzy when their sugar levels are too low. This can often be when they feel hungry.
- Lying on the back: During the third trimester, women may experience dizziness after lying on their back. This can be due to pressure on the inferior vena cava (vein carries blood from lower body to heart) from the womb.
- Anemia: Pregnant women are more likely to develop anemiaiXA condition characterized by reduced levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin in the body due to increased iron demand and insufficient iron in the body. Dizziness can be an early symptom of anemia in most people, including pregnant women.
- Varicose veins: This may reduce venous return to the heart, especially while standing up, and lead to low blood pressure and dizziness.
- Dehydration: Dehydration due to any reason can cause dizziness since it results in volume depletion and low blood pressure.
- Bleeding: Blood loss due to various reasons can cause dizziness due to low blood pressure.
Some women may experience lightheadedness throughout the pregnancy or due to fatigue. In contrast, some women may have a few incidences or no incidence at all.
A 12-week pregnant anonymous woman shares how she felt dizzy when she went out shopping, “I got so dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out! I then had to sit down and eat and drink water for a bit before feeling better. I thought it was because we ate kinda late on Saturday, but then I got a bit dizzy on Sunday as well! Nowhere near as bad, but still kinda’ dizzy! I opened my emails this morning and got at least 2 of the daily pregnancy updates that this week could see the start of dizziness (ⅰ).’’
Complications Of Dizziness In Pregnancy
Losing balance and falling is the biggest risk of dizziness in pregnancy. You may try to sit or lie down immediately when you feel dizzy. If underlying medical problems cause dizziness, the complications may vary accordingly.
Dizziness due to dehydration or blood loss can result in low blood pressure and shock. Life-threatening complications may occur in some cases, so it is recommended to seek medical care to identify and treat dizziness in pregnancy.
How To Prevent Dizziness During Pregnancy?
The following precautions may help women reduce the frequency of dizziness during pregnancy (1).
- Avoid lying on your back after the second trimester
- Wear comfortable and loose clothing to avoid circulatory problems
- Eat regularly as per doctor’s recommendations
- Take iron supplements as prescribed by your doctor
- Avoid going out in hot and humid environments
- Stay hydrated
- Get up slowly from lying or sitting position
- Avoid standing for long periods
You may also try to move your feet if you are sitting or standing for long periods. This may help to enhance the venous return from the legs.
Selfcare Tips For Dizziness In Pregnancy
Seek medical care if you are experiencing dizziness with or without other symptoms during pregnancy. Doctors could identify the cause and prescribe treatments if required.
If you feel dizzy, the following self-measures could be useful (2).
- Try to sit or lie down immediately, even if it is on the floor
- Keep the head lower, or elevate the legs
- Take deep breaths
- Open windows to increase air circulation.
- Loosen any tight clothes
Do not climb stairs, drive, or do anything requiring balance while feeling dizzy. You may ask someone to bring you snacks and water if you have low blood sugar or are dehydrated.
When To Contact A Doctor?
Contact your doctor if you have frequent dizziness or lightheadedness during pregnancy. Seek immediate medical care to avoid stress, if you have dizziness with vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain. This may indicate placental abruptioniXA condition where the placenta detaches itself from the uterine wall before the birth of the baby , low-lying placenta, or ectopic pregnancy (3).
Dizziness with palpitations (feeling own heartbeat), blurred vision, and headaches may also require immediate care since this can be due to anemia or other conditions that may negatively impact pregnancy.
Treatment For Dizziness During Pregnancy
Doctors may recommend self-care tips and changes in sleeping positions if dizziness is not caused by underlying medical conditions. Treatment for dizziness may vary depending on the underlying cause and may include the following.
- Intravenous (IV) fluids are given for dehydration.
- Surgical removal or medical management with methotrexate is done for ectopic pregnancy depending on the weeks of gestation and other factors.
- AntiemeticsiXMedications that prevent nausea or vomiting, usually prescribed for treating morning sickness during pregnancy , maternal lifestyle and diet changes, and IV fluids are prescribed for women with dizziness due to hyperemesis gravidarum.
- Conservative management of varicose veinsiXEnlarged and swollen blood vessels seen under the skin, typically found in the legs is recommended for pregnant women. This may include wearing elastic stockings, elevating legs, body weight control, and avoiding standing for long periods.
- Regular sugar monitoring, appropriate diet, lifestyle changes, and insulin use are recommended to manage gestational diabetes. Oral drugs are often prescribed to manage the condition in some women. However, more research is needed to confirm its safety in pregnancy.
- Oral iron supplementation and folic acid may help treat mild anemia in many pregnant women. Severe and moderate anemia is treated with IV iron therapy.
- Blood transfusion and fluid replacement are required for women with severe blood loss.
Your doctor may diagnose the underlying cause and plan treatment accordingly. It is important to identify the cause of dizziness to avoid possible pregnancy complications and life-threatening complications at the earliest.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is dizziness a symptom of a miscarriage?
Dizziness with heavy bleeding and severe stomach pain may precede a miscarriage. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience such symptoms during pregnancy (4).
2. Can high blood pressure cause dizziness?
Dizziness and lightheadedness may be symptoms of high blood pressure (5).
3. Is feeling dizzy a sign of preeclampsia during pregnancy?
Dizziness during pregnancy can be caused by hormonal changes, low blood sugar, anemia, gestational diabetes, and other factors. However, do not ignore it because some causes of dizziness may lead to fainting, which could endanger your pregnancy. While some may experience dizziness only in the first trimester, others may experience it throughout their gestation period. If you’re dizzy in the second or third trimester, consult your doctor to avoid pregnancy complications. Preventive actions such as eating well and frequently, taking prenatal vitamins, and avoiding sudden motions when standing or sitting may also be beneficial.
Infographic: How To Prevent Dizziness During Pregnancy?
Many women experience dizziness during pregnancy, mainly due to fluctuating hormones. However, it could also be a sign of an underlying cause and may even cause injuries if women are not careful enough. So, look through the infographic below for some simple yet useful tips to help lower the risk of dizziness during pregnancy.
- Blood vessel relaxation and dilation due to increased hormone levels can cause dizziness or lightheadedness during pregnancy.
- Staying hydrated, taking iron supplements, and comfortable clothing help prevent dizziness during pregnancy.
- If you experience dizziness along with palpitations, blurred vision, or headaches, see your OB right away.
During pregnancy, your body undergoes a lot of changes. Hence, some pregnant women often feel dizzy. Learn the causes behind this and how to manage it in this helpful video.
Personal Experience: Source
i. Week 12: Dizziness.
2. How to Handle Dizziness During Pregnancy; Nationwide Children’s Hospital
3. Signs and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy; Planned Parenthood
4. What really happens during a miscarriage; Pregnancy Birth & Baby
5. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension); Texas Heart institute
6. Pregnancy – preeclampsia