Fainting and Dizziness During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman touching her head, feeling sick

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Many pregnant people experience light-headedness or dizziness and wonder if or when they should be worried. During pregnancy, your body undergoes a lot of changes, and some of them may make you more apt to feel dizzy or light-headed. Some pregnant people even faint during pregnancy. While fainting does not happen to every pregnant person, dizziness is a very common and normal pregnancy symptom.

Causes of feeling dizzy during pregnancy include the significant increase in blood volume that occurs and the weight of the growing uterus on your blood vessels. This symptom is expected and not usually an indication that something is wrong.

However, as with all unfamiliar pregnancy symptoms, you should talk to your doctor or midwife about it at your next prenatal care appointment. In the meantime, if you have any concerns, call your healthcare provider right away. Learn more about light-headedness or dizziness during pregnancy, how to find relief, and when to contact your doctor.

How Dizziness During Pregnancy May Feel

Dizziness is a general term used to describe a variety of different feelings including feeling light-headed or like you might pass out. Some people describe dizziness as feeling like they are lightweight or floating rather feeling firmly rooted to the ground. Others may describe dizziness as feeling like they are off balance, that the room is tilted, or that the room is spinning.

The sensation of dizziness can be caused by a variety of different things in pregnancy, some of which are nothing to worry about. From issues like being dehydrated to having low blood sugar to more serious conditions like preeclampsia and stroke, there could be any number of reasons why you're feeling dizzy during your pregnancy. Even changes in blood pressure can cause you to feel dizzy.

When to Call Your Doctor

Dizziness is common, especially in early pregnancy, but you should still talk to your healthcare provider about it. If you suffer from mild dizziness, bring it up at your next pregnancy check-up. However, if it occurs frequently or you actually pass out, call your doctor.

Dizziness accompanied by slurred speech, numbness, a change in vision, headache, swelling, nausea, shortness of breath, or abdominal pain may be a sign of a more serious problem like a stroke or preeclampsia and you should call your health practitioner right away.

Causes of Dizziness During Pregnancy

One thing that changes drastically in pregnancy is how much your cardiac output ramps up. Your heart has to work 30% to 50% harder during pregnancy—you're building a human, after all— and this increased output starts fairly early in gestation. As your body adapts to pregnancy, your heart works harder and your blood volume increases to take care of your needs and the needs of your baby.

Sometimes certain positions or conditions may lead you to feel a shift in your blood pressure causing you to feel off-balance or out of sorts. Some other reasons that you may be dizzy in pregnancy can include:

  • Changing positions suddenly, particularly when getting up, known as postural or orthostatic hypotension
  • Lying on your back, particularly after the fourth month of pregnancy
  • Not enough food or calories causing low blood sugar
  • Overheating
  • Dehydration
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Low blood pressure
  • Anemia
  • Preeclampsia

Coping With Dizziness During Pregnancy

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 requiring balance like climb stairs. Stay seated until the spell passes and you no longer feel as though you might pass out. If you can, have someone bring you water and a snack.

The biggest risk with dizziness is falling, especially if you lose your balance or even pass out. For this reason, it's very important to rest when you start feeling woozy. Sitting also can help protect you from getting hurt if you were to lose consciousness. 

Preventing Dizziness During Pregnancy 

Sometimes, you can lessen the degree of dizziness you feel. To help avoid feeling dizzy or light-headed, you need to address the causes that may be adding to the feeling.

For example, if you are experiencing dizziness when you stand up suddenly or get out of bed, sit up slowly, swing your legs over the side of the bed, and sit there for a minute before standing. Stand up after you've gotten your bearings, and go slowly.

You also should make sure that you are well hydrated and well-fed. Many women experience blood sugar fluctuations during pregnancy, so snacking on protein and carbohydrates can help to steady blood sugar. Snacks may work better for some women than bigger meals, particularly in the later trimesters.

Hydration is important for a whole host of reasons in pregnancy. For example, proper hydration also can help prevent you from overheating. While pregnant, you should aim to drink 12 eight-ounce servings of water a day.

1 Source
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  1. Robson SC, Hunter S, Boys RJ, Dunlop W. Serial study of factors influencing changes in cardiac output during human pregnancy. Am J Physiol. 1989;256(4 Pt 2):H1060-5. doi:10.1152/ajpheart.1989.256.4.H1060

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.