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Pregnancy

20th May 2024

Everything you need to know about dizziness and fainting in pregnancy and when to see your GP

Sophie Collins

Dizziness and fainting in pregnancy

If this if your first pregnancy, there will be lots of things you may be unsure about

If you suffer from dizziness or light-headedness along with feeling weak, unsteady or evening feeling like you’re going to faint, it’s very natural for a person to worry.

The HSE says that many pregnant women feel dizzy at times and in fact it can sometimes be the first sign that you are pregnant.

It’s important to know that dizziness is common in weeks 0 to 13 of pregnancy.

However, there are times when other symptoms may arise and it indicates that you should see a doctor or even attend the hospital.

Here’s what you need to know

You should contact your GP if you feel dizzy or feeling faint, and:

  • have a mild headache
  • your vision is slightly blurry at times

Contact your maternity hospital or emergency department immediately if you are dizzy or feeling faint, and you have:

  • bleeding from your vagina
  • pain in your tummy
  • severe dizziness that does not go away
  • shortness of breath or chest pain
  • irregular or too fast heart beat
  • severe headache
  • severe blurred vision
  • been diagnosed with high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia

Go to your GP immediately if you have fainted and hurt yourself, especially if you hit your head.

Contact your maternity unit if:

  • you have fallen and landed or injured your tummy, or your bump or your abdomen
  • your baby’s movements have changed since you fainted
  • you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia

Contact your GP or your out-of-hours GP if:

  • you hit your head when you fainted
  • this is the first time you have fainted

What to do if you feel faint

If you feel faint then you should tell someone immediate so they can support you and get help if needed.

You should sit or lie down. If you sit, lower your head towards your knees. If you lie down, lie on your side.

Take deep breaths, breathing out slowly and get someone to open a window.

Do not try to move from where you are and loosen any tight clothing.

Do not eat or drink anything if you are feeling very dizzy or faint. But as the dizziness starts to improve, drink some water and have a snack.

Signs you might faint

The HSE warns that you may faint if you feel any of these signs:

  • feeling light headed
  • feeling confused
  • blurred vision or spots in front of your eyes
  • ringing sound in your ears
  • sweating or feeling cold and clammy
  • feeling sick
  • fast or unusually deep breathing

If you faint the HSE say you will usually be unconscious for 20 seconds. 

Remember that it is normal to feel disorientated for a few seconds after you wake up and you may feel tired and weak for 30 minutes or more after fainting.

It is a good idea to rest and if possible, get somebody else to drive you home – it is best not to drive.

Causes of dizziness and fainting

The main causes of dizziness and fainting during pregnancy are:

  • hormone changes – this can cause your blood pressure to drop, allowing less blood to get to your brain
  • overheating
  • low blood sugar – keep a snack with you and avoid skipping meals
  • low iron levels

You may also get dizzy if you lie on your back during the second and third trimesters. This is because as your womb grows, it can put pressure on a major blood vessel leading to the heart.

Prevent dizziness and fainting

You can help prevent dizziness and fainting by:

  • getting out of bed slowly – sit on the side of the bed for a minute before standing
  • avoiding very hot baths or showers
  • getting out of the bath or shower slowly and carefully
  • avoiding standing for long periods of time
  • never skipping meals – even if you have morning sickness, eat small amounts of food often
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • doing small amounts of physical activity often, to improve your circulation
  • avoiding lying on your back, especially from your second trimester onwards

For more information on this topic, click here.

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