Dizzy spells are an unfortunate yet common side effect of pregnancy. In most instances, a single dizzy spell is nothing to be concerned about; however, it may be a sign of something more serious when it occurs in conjunction with other symptoms.
In order to help you distinguish whether or not to be concerned about your dizzy spell and sort out the reasons for concern versus benign causes, we’ve compiled a list of the most common causes of dizziness during pregnancy; also ways to help and avoid feeling faint, and when to call your doctor.
This article should not be taken as medical advice, but rather, a helpful guide.
Common Causes of Dizziness During Pregnancy
Pregnancy comes with natural body and hormonal changes as you carry your baby for nine months. Unfortunately, some of these changes will cause dizziness or lightheadedness; while dizziness may first pop up in early pregnancy, it can occur in any trimester.
Dizziness is not a sign of pregnancy; instead, it is a side effect of the changes your body is going through. In this section we’ll outline the most common causes of dizziness during pregnancy.
Low Blood Pressure
An increase in the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) causes your blood vessels to relax; as a result, your blood pressure decreases. A decrease in blood pressure can make a person feel faint.
Being hungry can make anyone feel dizzy. A pregnant woman needs more calories, especially during the second and third trimesters. Not eating enough can cause low blood sugar, which could make you feel woozy.
Nausea due to morning sickness
If you are suffering from morning sickness during your first trimester, you may also experience dizzy spells. Feeling faint is a common byproduct of frequent vomiting and dehydration.
Slower blood flow
Your growing uterus and baby add increased pressure on your vena cava, the two large veins that carry blood to and from the heart. The increasing pressure can slow blood flow and decrease the blood volume.
Pregnant women are most likely to become dizzy due to slower blood flow beginning in the second trimester, and carrying into the third.
Anemia is a common condition during pregnancy. It is caused by iron deficiency, which women are generally more prone to than men due to their monthly menstrual cycle. During pregnancy, your body requires more iron than usual. Anemic women are likely to experience dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and an irregular heartbeat.
To prevent anemia, a pregnant woman needs a minimum of 27 mg of iron daily. Your physician may recommend you take an iron supplement in addition to eating iron-rich foods.
Standing up too quickly
When a person stands up too quickly, especially after long periods of lying down or sitting, blood pools in the legs, causing a brief dizzy phase. Try to stand up slowly and hold onto something if you suffer frequent dizzy spells when standing.
If you fear needles or are afraid of blood, getting blood work done may make you dizzy. A drop in blood pressure caused by fear is called vasovagal. As a result, many people feel dizzy and may even faint.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is a severe form of morning sickness that causes severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and loss of electrolytes. Dehydration and low blood pressure are common symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum, which cause dizziness.
Ectopic pregnancy is a dangerous condition that can be life-threatening to the mother. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself someplace other than the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube.
Signs of an ectopic pregnancy include pain in the shoulder, light bleeding or spotting, headaches, dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fainting.
A pregnancy test will read positive even for an ectopic pregnancy. If you experience any signs or symptoms of ectopic pregnancy, it is essential to contact your doctor for a wellness check.
Preeclampsia is a life-threatening condition that is caused by high blood pressure. Preeclampsia usually occurs after twenty weeks and is characterized by severe headaches, sensitivity to light, upper abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, and dizziness.
Your healthcare provider will monitor you for hypertension at your regular checkups. Still, you should contact your doctor immediately if you experience severe headaches, nausea and dizziness, and severe pain in your abdomen.
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs in pregnant women who did not have diabetes prior to pregnancy. Your doctor will likely test for the condition between 24 and 28 weeks.
A woman with gestational diabetes has higher than normal blood sugar levels; however, these levels can usually be controlled through diet and exercise during your pregnancy. If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your doctor will monitor your condition as you approach your due date.
Women with gestational diabetes are at risk for an extra-large baby, high blood pressure or preeclampsia, c-section, low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.
Non-Pregnancy Related Conditions
Dizziness and lightheadedness can be caused by things unrelated to your pregnancy.
Additional conditions that cause dizziness include:
- Inner ear problems like vertigo
- Neurological conditions
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Contact your doctor if you experience dizziness combined with any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden or severe headaches
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Vision problems
- Irregular heartbeat
- Ongoing vomiting
- Confusion or slurred speech
Ways to Manage and Prevent Dizzy Spells
Dizziness may be one of those pregnancy symptoms that you can’t avoid, but there are ways to mitigate it or help control dizzy spells. Of course, understanding what is causing you to feel dizzy is half the battle, but here are some tricks to help when needed!
Don't stand for too long
Standing for long periods causes blood to pool in the legs. As the blood pools, it lowers your blood pressure, which causes dizziness. Instead, try to sit down, take frequent breaks, and elevate your legs when possible.
Keep moving while standing
Remaining static, especially while standing, can cause dizziness because of the decreased blood flow. If you must stand for long periods, try to keep moving to help your blood circulate.
Get up slowly
When sitting or lying down, stand up slowly. Standing up too quickly can cause dizziness and round ligament pain, a short jabbing pain in the groin that can occur on the right or left side.
Eat healthy foods
It probably goes without saying that eating well is an essential part of a healthy pregnancy. A well-rounded diet will help control your blood sugar levels. Eating several small meals and healthy snacks throughout the day can also help.
Wear comfortable clothes
Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes. Tight clothing can decrease blood circulation, which could make you feel lightheaded.
Drink plenty of water and sugar-free and caffeine-free drinks. Dehydration can cause dizziness as well as dry mouth, fatigue, rapid heart palpitations, and muscle cramps.
Avoid Hot Showers & Baths
There’s no doubt that a nice warm shower or a hot bath can feel soothing; however, a super hot bath is not considered safe during pregnancy. A hot bath can reduce blood flow to your baby, and staying in hot water too long can make you feel lightheaded.
On the other hand, a warm bath can be quite relaxing and could slow down preterm labor contractions. Bathwater should never be more than 98 degrees Fahrenheit.
Deep breathing and breathing exercises can help if you are feeling dizzy. First, sit in a comfortable position and take a deep, slow breath in through your nose. Then, with pursed lips, slowly breathe back out. If you need a place to sit and relax, a Nurture& Glider or Swivel is the perfect place to put up your feet and recline in comfort.
As part of your prenatal care routine, you should include regular, gentle exercise. Activities like yoga, walking, swimming, and gentle stretching are excellent ways to maintain your health and keep your blood pressure regulated. As your pregnancy progresses, listen to your body, take breaks as needed, and be sure to stay hydrated.
When to See a Doctor
Typically a dizzy spell is nothing to worry about, but it is essential to talk with your doctor about any unusual or concerning symptoms, especially if accompanied by dizziness.
Severe and persistent dizziness
If you are experiencing frequent dizziness, give your healthcare provider a call so they can determine if any tests should be done. Your doctor can also advise if you need to watch out for any additional symptoms.
If you experience heavy or bright red vaginal bleeding, you should call your doctor. Even if the bleeding is not accompanied by dizziness, bleeding or spotting is always a reason to reach out to your OB/GYN.
Intense heart palpitations
Intense heart palpitations, especially accompanied by dizziness, are a reason to call your doctor. Increased heart palpitations are a common symptom during pregnancy and could be something as benign as increased red blood cells or hormonal changes. You are most likely to notice increased heart palpitations after pregnancy week 14.
Whether you are pregnant or not, intense chest pain warrants a call to the doctor. Severe chest pain along with dizziness, shortness of breath, or weakness requires an immediate call to the doctor.
Blurry vision during pregnancy can signify preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or hypertension. If you experience blurry vision along with dizziness, severe headaches, or increased blood pressure, it is vital to give your doctor a call.
Hormonal fluctuations, physical changes, and emotions can influence your blood pressure and cause dizziness during pregnancy. You can have peace of mind since most dizzy spells are harmless; however, it is important to know when there is cause for concern.
Therefore, if you experience dizziness, especially combined with other concerning symptoms, a call to your doctor is always a good idea. Additionally, you can return to this guide any time you have questions about what is expected or uncommon regarding dizziness and pregnancy.