Pregnancy doesn’t just make you look different. It changes your cardiovascular system, increases your blood volume, and can lower your blood pressure. None of this is unusual—but low blood pressure is something to watch out for.
If you’re feeling dizzy or lightheaded, that’s a sign your blood pressure is low. You may even faint.
Why Does This Happen?
It’s hormonal as your body prepares for the nine months of pregnancy. Your blood pressure is lowest during the middle of the second trimester. You can expect on average a drop of 5 to 10 mmHg in systolic pressure and up to 15 mmHg in diastolic pressure.
Be assured that your pressure will gradually rise and should return to normal by the end of your pregnancy.
How to Avoid Lightheadedness
Here are some common causes of lightheadedness during pregnancy and solutions you can try:
Standing up too fast. Did you know that blood pools in your feet and lower legs when you sit? When you stand up quickly, your body may not return enough blood to your heart. So don’t jump up from a chair; and if you’re in bed, sit up slowly, dangle your feet over the side for a bit, and get up slowly. Tip: Wearing support stockings can help the circulation in your lower legs.
Lying flat on your back. As your pregnancy progresses, your uterus can compress the inferior vena cava (the vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart) and pelvic veins, slowing circulation in your legs. Lying flat on your back can make the problem worse. But if you sleep on your left side, you’ll increase blood flow to your heart.
Not eating or drinking enough. Inadequate nutrition can lead to low blood sugar, which can make you dizzy or feel faint. Eat small, frequent meals during the day and always have a healthy snack with you so you’re prepared to thwart dizziness. And don’t forget to drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day.
Anemia. Lacking a normal supply of red blood cells to carry oxygen to your brain and other organs can cause you to feel lightheaded. Your doctor will advise you to eat an iron-rich diet and take a prenatal vitamin with iron. He or she may also prescribe a separate iron supplement.
Overheating and hyperventilating. You may feel dizzy if you get too hot or even if you’re in a hot shower or bath. Heat causes your blood vessels to dilate, lowering your pressure. Some tips: Dress in layers, take warm showers, not hot ones, and keep your bathroom cool. Overdoing it when you exercise can cause you to hyperventilate and feel faint. So stop if you feel faint or tired.
Occasional dizziness and lightheadedness is common during pregnancy. Your body is undergoing numerous changes, and the increase in blood volume creates extra work for your heart.
But if your dizziness or lightheadedness worsens or you also have serious symptoms such as blurred vision or shortness of breath, tell your doctor. And of course, if you feel dizzy while driving, pull over and stop immediately.