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, and 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: This is extreme morning sickness with severe nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. Hyperemesis gravidarum may cause dizziness due to water loss from vomiting. 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 anemia 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. In contrast, some women may have a few incidences or no incidence at all.
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 dizziness, 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 if you have dizziness with vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain. This may indicate placental abruption, 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.
- Antiemetics, maternal lifestyle and diet changes, and IV fluids are prescribed for women with dizziness due to hyperemesis gravidarum.
- Conservative management of varicose veins 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.
Dizziness in pregnancy is often common, but you must not ignore it. Some of its causes could lead to complications, such as fainting, which may negatively affect the pregnancy. Women early in the first trimester can confirm pregnancy with urine tests and ultrasound if they experience dizziness. It is also best to consult a doctor for dizziness experienced in the second and third trimesters to avoid any risk of problems for the pregnancy.
2. How to Handle Dizziness During Pregnancy; Nationwide Children’s Hospital
3. Signs and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy; Planned Parenthood