What You Should Know About Dizziness and Passing Out During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman feeling sick and faint
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Pregnancy is a time of change. Some of those body changes make you more apt to feel dizzy or light-headed. Sometimes you might even hear of women passing out or fainting. While this does not happen to everyone, it is a fairly common and normal symptom and typically is not an indicator of something really wrong. Though you will want to talk to your doctor or midwife about it in your prenatal care appointments. 

Reasons You Might Get Dizzy

One of the things that change drastically in pregnancy is how much cardiac output ramps up. This can increase up to 30-50% in pregnancy and starts fairly early on in gestation. As your body adapts to pregnancy, your heart works harder and you have more blood volume to take care of your needs and the needs of your baby. Sometimes certain positions or conditions lead to you feeling a shift in your blood pressure and causing you to feel off balance, or out of sorts.

Some reasons that you may be dizzy in pregnancy can include:

  • Changing positions suddenly, particularly when getting up (Orthostatic hypotension)
  • Lying on your back (particularly after the fourth month of pregnancy)
  • Not enough food/calories
  • Overheating (any cause)
  • Dehydration
  • Medical causes like low blood pressure or anemia

Preventing Dizziness 

Sometimes, you can lessen the degree to which you feel dizzy. To help prevent dizziness, you would need to address the causes that may be adding to the feeling, other than simply being pregnant. For example, if you are experiencing dizziness when you stand up suddenly, remember to sit up, swing your legs over the side of the bed and sit there for a minute. Stand up after you've gotten your bearings and do so slowly.

You should also make sure that you are always well hydrated and well fed. Snacks may work better for some women than bigger meals, particularly in the later trimesters. And hydration is important for a whole host of reasons in pregnancy, keeping in mind that thirst is often a sign that you need more fluids. Hydration can also help you prevent overheating.

What to Do If You Feel Dizzy or Faint

If you feel dizzy, stop what you're doing and sit down, even if it's on the floor. You should not drive, operate heavy machinery or do anything involving balance. Sit down until the spell passes and you no longer feel as though you might pass out. Have someone bring you something to drink and a snack, as this may help you.

For most women, the biggest risk is falling if you actually pass out. This is why it is very important to sit down, even if it's on the floor when you start feeling woozy. Sitting down can help protect you from falling if you were to lose consciousness. 

When to Worry About Dizziness

You should always talk to your health practitioner about this symptom but more quickly if you actually pass out. If this occurs frequently or if it is accompanied by slurred speech, disturbed visions or other worrisome symptoms, call your health practitioner right away.

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Article Sources
  • Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. Gabbe, S, Niebyl, J, Simpson, JL. Sixth Edition.
  • Robson S, Hunter S, Boys R, et al.: Serial study of factors influencing changes in cardiac output during human pregnancy. Am J Physiol. 256:H1061 1989