Dizziness During Pregnancy: Causes and Tips
As your body undergoes changes to accommodate your growing baby, you'll likely encounter periods of dizziness throughout your pregnancy. While dizziness may be part of a normal pregnancy and is a common occurrence amongst most women, intense and frequent bouts of dizziness may be a sign to see a healthcare professional.
However, for mild dizziness, there are various lifestyle changes you can make to prevent this pregnancy symptom. Read to find out more on what causes dizziness during pregnancy, and some tips on how to handle your symptoms.
What Causes Dizziness During Pregnancy?
When you experience dizziness during pregnancy, it could be triggered by various physiological and lifestyle factors. For instance, certain medical conditions could make you more susceptible to dizziness or fainting. Identifying what may be causing your dizziness is the first step toward addressing it.
1. Low Blood Pressure
Hormonal changes, like an increase in progesterone and relaxin, cause your blood vessels to widen during early pregnancy. While dilated blood vessels help carry blood and essential nutrients to your baby, it could cause dizziness during pregnancy.
Dilated blood vessels can lead to low blood pressure and cause dizziness during the pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester. This effect is especially noticeable when you're getting up from a sitting or lying position.
While this commonly causes dizziness during the first trimester of your pregnancy, studies have also shown that pregnant women may experience low blood pressure into their second and third trimesters. The bottom line? Be prepared to deal with dizziness during the later stages of your pregnancy too.
2. High Blood Pressure
On the other end of the spectrum, high blood pressure can also bring about dizziness during pregnancy. This is often associated with pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia.
Pre-eclampsia is a serious medical condition that usually appears after week 20 (the second trimester). It is often characterized by lightheadedness, abdominal pain, and organ damage. If you suspect you may be at risk for pre-eclampsia, please consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
3. Low Blood Sugar Levels
Low blood sugar levels, otherwise known as hypoglycemia, are another common cause of dizziness in pregnancy. It's a common symptom in pregnant women with morning sickness, who experience nausea, vomiting, and a poor appetite. This often results in low blood sugar levels and even dehydration. This, in turn, can make you feel faint and weak.
Hypoglycemia can also appear in pregnant women with diabetes or gestational diabetes mellitus. Unlike diabetes type one or two, gestational diabetes mellitus only shows up during pregnancy due to certain hormonal changes. As such, previously non-diabetic individuals may develop gestational diabetes when they become pregnant.
Diabetes and gestational diabetes are often associated with high blood sugar levels. However, they can cause low blood sugar levels too. Certain diabetic medications, like insulin shots and glyburide, work to lower blood sugar levels. After taking these medications, your blood sugar levels may drop too low, leading to dizziness during your pregnancy.
4. Hyperemesis Gravidarum
We've mentioned how morning sickness leads to low blood sugar levels and dizziness during your pregnancy. However, have you heard of hyperemesis gravidarum?
While normal morning sickness affects 50-90% of pregnant women, hyperemesis gravidarum is a rare condition that appears in 0.5-2% of all pregnancies. This extreme form of morning sickness is characterized by severe nausea and non-stop vomiting. The condition makes it almost impossible to eat or drink. Often, the affected individuals suffer from dizziness during pregnancy. In addition, symptoms include serious nutritional deficits and dehydration that can result in hospitalization.
Another unexpected reason you might be experiencing dizziness during pregnancy is dehydration. As your pregnancy progresses, pregnant women can experience dehydration due to:
- Not drinking enough water
- Intense exercise workouts
- Morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum
When your body lacks enough water to support you and your baby, lightheadedness or dizziness are common. Other symptoms include headache, muscle cramps, thirstiness, dark-colored urine, and exhaustion. Sometimes, dehydration may even cause Braxton Hicks contractions — false labor pains when the womb contracts and relaxes.
6. Growing Fetal Weight
As you approach the second and third trimesters, the growing baby weight causes your uterus to expand. The growing uterus puts pressure on the blood vessels, which restricts blood flow and leaves you feeling faint and dizzy.
Lying on your back can worsen the problem. Since the supine position makes it easy for your baby to press on your inferior vena cava — a large vein that transports blood back to your heart. When the inferior vena cava can't perform properly, it leads to inferior vena cava compression syndrome. This is a condition that gives rise to dizzy spells, nausea, low blood pressure, and sweating.
Higher-than-usual body temperature is another common cause of dizziness during pregnancy. Here are some reasons why you may be feeling overheated:
- Hormonal changes
- Increased blood volume to transport sufficient nutrients and oxygen to your baby
- A faster heart rate to pump enough blood to your uterus
- Your baby generates its own body heat which is then absorbed by you
According to a 2016 study in the Cardiovascular Journal of Africa, your blood volume increases by 50% when you reach week 34 (during the third trimester) of your pregnancy. At the same time, red blood cells grow in number to carry sufficient oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby. Yet, the increase in red blood cells can’t match the increase in blood volume. This can lead to a condition known as anemia.
Iron deficiency is one of the most prevalent causes of anemia during pregnancy, accounting for 75% of anemia cases in pregnancy. But why is this so? Iron is needed to create hemoglobin, an oxygen-carrying substance present in red blood cells. When your iron intake is low, your cells will not receive enough oxygen, leading to dizziness and tiredness.
Besides a low iron intake, folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies can also trigger anemia in pregnancy. Folate and vitamin B12 help make healthy red blood cells. When these essential vitamins are in low quantities, inadequate nutrients will be delivered to your baby. This heightens the risk of birth defects like neural tube abnormalities as well as contributing to dizziness during pregnancy.
How To Manage Dizziness During Pregnancy
There are many causes of dizziness during pregnancy. Below are some tips to minimize the occurrence of dizzy spells.
1. Take Small, Frequent Meals
It goes without saying that a healthy diet is essential for a healthy pregnancy. But what if morning sickness and a poor appetite prevent you from consuming three full meals a day?
Try to eat a larger number of small meals instead. This will help provide your body with enough sustenance to keep your blood sugar levels in check. At the same time, the small food portions make it easier to keep food down. You can also try natural nausea remedies like ginger tea to improve your appetite and maintain stable food intake.
1. Get Enough Iron, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12
Another way to prevent anemia and the resulting dizziness during pregnancy is to eat enough iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12. Choose foods like:
- Dark, leafy greens
- Fruits and juices
- Fortified cereals
- Whole wheat bread and grains
- Nuts and legumes
- Red meat and organ meats
Also, if you are experiencing anemia during pregnancy, speak with your obstetrician to identify the exact cause of your anemia. Is it due to a lack of folate or insufficient iron? As anemia can cause dizziness during pregnancy, managing your anemia will help alleviate it as well.
3. Sleep on Your Left Side
Remember how your baby may be pressing on the vena cava when you’re lying on your back? Since the vena cava is located on the right side of your body, prevent dizziness during pregnancy by sleeping on your left side instead.
If your bump makes for an uncomfortable side sleeping position, invest in a pregnancy pillow. The unique pillow shape keeps the strain off your back and hips. This helps you wake up pain-free and well-rested.
4. Get Up Slowly
If you stand up too quickly, the blood flow will not reach your brain in time, causing you to feel lightheaded. Practice getting up slowly from a lying or sitting position to prevent dizziness during pregnancy.
5. Keep Cool
As pregnant women are more prone to dizziness from overheating, here are some tips to prevent overheating and the subsequent lightheadedness:
- Avoid crowded areas and rooms.
- Avoid hot baths, hot tubs, and saunas — opt for lukewarm water instead.
- Try not to go outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the hottest times of the day.
- If you have to go outside in the heat, bring along a hat and an umbrella, and seek shade whenever possible.
- Wear loose, breathable clothing that sits comfortably on your skin, especially your undergarments. Avoid tight clothing as these can restrict blood flow and worsen feelings of extreme heat and dizziness.
- Don't work out too hard — overly intense workouts can overheat your body, making you feel faint and weak.
- Drink enough fluids.
6. Avoid Standing for Long Periods
Standing for long periods makes it easy for blood to accumulate in the lower extremities, particularly your legs and feet. This leaves less blood flowing through your upper body, which results in dizziness, especially during pregnancy.
If you have to stay on your feet for a while, shift from foot to foot, and move around regularly. This helps improve your blood circulation while standing. You can also wear compression stockings, which not only relieve swollen feet but also prevent blood from pooling in your legs.
7. Consult Your Healthcare Provider
Prenatal care is essential for a healthy pregnancy. Go for checkups regularly and consult your obstetrician if you need a more in-depth diagnosis and prevention plan.
In addition to feeling lightheaded, seek medical help if you're also experiencing complications like vaginal bleeding or severe abdominal cramps. These pregnancy symptoms are often warning signs of a more serious condition, like ectopic pregnancy, and require immediate care.
8. Oral Rehydration Solution
Remedying dehydration is essential to managing dizziness during pregnancy. Make sure to drink enough fluids every day to prevent and alleviate dizziness during your pregnancy.
But, it's important to note that water alone won't act fast enough to help your dizziness if you're already dehydrated. Due to nausea and forgetfulness, it's challenging to consume enough fluids during pregnancy. This is where DripDrop ORS, a scientifically formulated oral rehydration solution, comes in.
DripDrop ORS was created by a doctor to remedy mild to moderate dehydration. Using a medically balanced ratio of sodium and glucose to help with absorption, DripDrop ORS provides dehydration relief fast. Compared to sports drinks, DripDrop ORS is armed with 3x the electrolytes and half the sugar. Most importantly, it's gluten-free, contains natural colors, and is safe for pregnant women. Of course, it's best to check with your obstetrician first before adding anything new to your diet during pregnancy.
Save 25% on DripDrop ORS, the Best Drink for Relieving Dehydration and Dizziness During Pregnancy
Even though many women experience dizziness during pregnancy, it doesn't mean you have to suffer through the same ordeal. Minimize dizziness during pregnancy by adjusting your diet and lifestyle, staying hydrated, going for checkups regularly, and practicing proper prenatal care.
With DripDrop’s precisely balanced ratio of glucose and electrolytes, you can replenish vital electrolytes and fluids to relieve dehydration quickly. DripDrop ORS’s patented formula is medical grade and safe for everyday use. This is why our formula is trusted by people around the world to correct mild to moderate dehydration. Finally, as you experience dizziness during pregnancy, convenience is key. Drip Drop’s convenient individual packaging makes it easy for you to have DripDrop ORS when you need it, where you need it.