Feeling faint. A classic scene, repeated in many old movies, shows the beautiful young, newly married heroine fainting unexpectedly, often in a crowded place, like a shop or street. The next scene shows her, beaming and neat, holding what is meant to be a newborn baby. This is how a rather coy film-making industry used to handle the announcement and depiction of pregnancy and labour.

As we know, it is not that simple, but it is true that women in early pregnancy may be more inclined to faint than non-pregnant women. Pregnancy changes lots of parts of a woman’s body, including her cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) system. There is a shift in the distribution of blood in her body, with relatively more going down to the pelvis than previously. There is also a hormonal effect during pregnancy on blood vessels which tends to make them more dilated, getting ready for the next change, which is an increase in the amount of blood circulating around. This increased blood volume is necessary to transfer oxygen and nutrients from the woman to her developing foetus, via the placenta.

Having an expanded space in which to hold your blood, and not yet having made the extra blood may contribute to this fainting business. Your blood pressure (the force of the blood pumping around) will be slightly lowered by these changes. That means that when you stand up quickly, it may take a second longer for the blood to reach your brain, and consequently you might faint.

There are a couple of tricks which can help with this. The first is drink more fluid. Try watery drinks, rather than tea (which has a diuretic effect, making you wee more and perhaps decreasing your fluid load). Pregnant women need extra fluid. It will help to fill up the blood vessel space, and stop the blood pressure from dropping to your boots.

Secondly, it may be worth taking a bit of extra care when you are getting up from sitting and lying. If you do it more slowly (no, you are not an invalid, only pregnant), you may feel more comfortable. Recognize that there may be a bit of adjusting your body needs to do.


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