Why You Might Experience Dizziness During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can throw you for a loop when certain symptoms appear out of thin air. If you find yourself suddenly feeling off-balance or light-headed, you’re not alone. For the record, it’s fairly common to feel dizzy at some point in pregnancy. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through. Read on to learn what causes dizziness in pregnancy, and get tips to help you prevent dizzy spells.
In this article:
What is dizziness in pregnancy?
What causes dizziness in pregnancy?
How to reduce dizziness in pregnancy
When does dizziness in pregnancy end?
Can you prevent dizziness in pregnancy?
When to talk to your doctor about dizziness in pregnancy
It’s important to point out that dizziness can mean different things to different people. Some may use it to describe vertigo; others may say they’re dizzy when they actually feel lightheaded. “Dizziness is a non-specific term where the person feels a general unsteadiness,” explains Alexander Lin, MD, medical director of women’s health at Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital in Illinois.
To be clear, vertigo refers to the feeling that you’re spinning or losing your balance, Lin says. “It’s a specific type of dizziness characterized by a whirling sensation, as if the environment or oneself is moving when they’re not,” adds Meleen Chuang, MD, clinical associate professor at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone.
When you’re dizzy or lightheaded, you can feel more like you’re going to faint, Lin says. “Regardless, the more specific and descriptive a patient can be in describing their complaint, the easier it may be to determine the underlying cause,” he says.
Is dizziness a sign of pregnancy? While it’s a common first trimester symptom, experiencing faintness, dizziness or lightheadedness isn’t necessarily indicative of pregnancy.
Early on in pregnancy, morning sickness can make it difficult to take in enough fluids—and that can make you feel dizzy. “The rise in progesterone levels also causes dizziness,” Chuang adds.
In the second trimester, you may also have dizziness from hormonal changes, but Chuang says it usually starts to get better at that point. By the third trimester, dizziness could be caused by anemia from iron deficiency, Lin says.
There are several potential reasons you may experience dizziness throughout your nine+ month journey. Chuang says these are some of the most common culprits:
- Hormonal changes. Rising progesterone levels in early pregnancy can cause a drop in blood pressure that can lead to dizziness, Chuang says.
- Low blood sugar. Your body has higher-than-usual nutritional demands during pregnancy. If you’re unable to meet them—whether because of morning sickness or just not eating enough—you may end up feeling dizzy, Lin says.
- Dehydration. Nausea, vomiting and peeing more than usual, especially in the first trimester, can raise your risk of getting dehydrated. “When your body lacks fluids, it can cause dizziness,” Chuang says.
- Anemia. This is more common in the third trimester and often happens from low iron levels, Chuang says—it can lead to feelings of dizziness, fatigue and weakness.
- Standing up too fast. Getting up quickly or standing for long periods of time can cause your blood pressure to drop, leading to dizziness.
- Working too hard. Physical strain can cause you to feel dizzy when you’re pregnant. “Listen to your body and take breaks,” Chuang says. “Be sure to hydrate.”
Doctors say there are a few things you can do to reduce dizziness in pregnancy:
- Make sure you’re taking in enough fluids. “Patients should try to always be adequately hydrated, especially if the weather is hot or during exercise,” advises Lin. (A good rule of thumb: You’re well hydrated when your urine is pale yellow or clear.)
- Eat a nutritious diet. This includes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and trying to get enough iron, Lin says. (Of course, this can be tricky if you have morning sickness—just do your best.)
- Get rest. “Fatigue can worsen dizziness,” Chuang says. “Take breaks and listen to your body.”
- Try to have protein at each meal. This can help prevent large swings in blood sugar that can make you feel faint, Lin says. “Don’t have just a bowl of sweetened cereal or just toast with jam without an egg or some nuts for breakfast,” he says.
- Don’t get up too fast. Take your time when you get up from lying down or sitting.
Every person—and every pregnancy—is different, making it tough to definitively say when dizziness in pregnancy will end. It really depends on the underlying cause. But, Lin says that most cases are linked to dehydration, low blood pressure or low blood sugar, which is usually aggravated or caused by morning sickness. “Most patients feel much better once they are well into the second trimester,” he adds.
That said, it could last throughout your pregnancy. “It usually resolves in mid-pregnancy but can return towards the end of the pregnancy and during the postpartum period,” Chuang says.
If dizziness in pregnancy is due to hormonal shifts, it may be difficult to prevent it. However, being proactive about your health by hydrating, eating well and resting can help curb bouts of lightheadedness.
If you experienced a single bout of dizziness, bring it up at your next appointment. If it’s happening often, though, it’s important to flag it with your doctor sooner than later, Lin says. “You should also notify your provider urgently if you are experiencing other associated symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, extreme swelling or pain in a lower leg, loss of consciousness or worsening of your symptoms,” he adds.
Just don’t be dismissive of your symptoms. “Your doctor will have tips and tricks to help you feel better faster, or may do bloodwork to find the cause,” Chuang says.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
Meleen Chuang, MD, is a clinical associate professor at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone. She earned her medical degree from SUNY Stony Brook.
Alexander Lin, MD, medical director of women’s health at Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital in Illinois. He earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan.
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