Q&A: I’m pregnant and I feel sick and dizzy. What’s going on?Beth M. Iovinelli, RN, BSN, IBCLC
The large blood vessel that runs behind the uterus, called the vena cava, is responsible for carrying the blood from the lower part of your body back to your heart. It can also be the cause of your feelings of nausea and dizziness. Why? The vena cava is located towards the right side of your body, but your uterus, as pregnancy progresses, may tilt toward the right as well, making things a little cramped inside. If you lie on your back or recline too far back while sitting down, this may compress the vena cava, compromising blood flow, and resulting in dizziness or nausea. (This may also decrease the efficiency of blood flow to the placenta.)
When rising from lying down to a standing or sitting up position, some pregnant women experience dizziness as a result of orthostatic hypotension (a sudden drop in blood pressure due to a position change). To combat dizziness and nausea upon moving, try these tips:
- Sit in an upright, rather than reclined, position
- When lying down, find a comfortable position on your left side
- Change positions frequently (get up and move around)
- Don’t make sudden position changes
Here are some additional common causes of dizziness and what you can do to prevent them:
- Anemia (low hemoglobin): Your doctor will test you during pregnancy for anemia. To help prevent developing it, you can regularly take a prenatal vitamin.
- Low blood sugar: Eating small frequent meals throughout the day will help you manage hunger, balance your metabolism, and prevent low blood sugar.
- Fatigue: Listen to your body. Take naps when you can and slow down if you feel dizzy or tired.
- Becoming overheated: Pregnancy hormones, increased blood flow, and expending more energy to move about with the added weight of your baby can make you feel hot fast. Dress in layers so you can bundle up or shed a layer as needed.
- High blood pressure: If you have preexisting high blood pressure prior to your pregnancy, be sure to speak with your doctor to develop a health plan that’s right for you.
Always ask questions when you go for your regular visits with your doctor or midwife, but if you experience symptoms between visits and you are not sure if they are normal, check in with them to ease your mind and come up with strategies for coping.