Due to hurricane damage, the Havelock location is closed until further notice. Havelock therapists Hannah Zhang, Sarah Hall and Judy Hickes are available to see patients at the New Bern location. Please call the New Bern location at (252) 636-9800 to discuss your care.

Postpartum dizziness: Potential causes and treatments

postpartum dizziness

Pregnancy and childbirth is often an exciting journey. However, giving birth is a physically intense process that can leave you weak and fatigued. You may feel several lasting side effects, such as postpartum dizziness.

You don’t have to suffer through your postpartum dizziness, with the accompanying nausea and headache. There are several treatment options available that can help you reduce your symptoms, including physical therapy.

What are some potential causes of postpartum dizziness?

There are several physical and emotional conditions that may be linked to dizziness during and after pregnancy. Some potential causes of postpartum dizziness include:

  • Positional vertigo — Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of the most common causes of vertigo. BPPV causes mild to severe episodes of dizziness, loss of balance and nausea. Typically, BPPV episodes are triggered by changing the position of your head. This can be when you tilt your head up or down, when you lie down, or when you turn over in bed. While there is no solid connection between BPPV and pregnancy/childbirth, BPPV is more common in women. 
  • Postpartum anemia — After pregnancy, you’re at an increased risk of iron deficiency anemia. While you’re pregnant, the amount of blood in your body increases, and so does your need for iron. If you do not meet your body’s increased need for iron throughout your pregnancy, you may develop iron deficiency anemia after childbirth. This can cause postpartum dizziness. Other symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include lightheadedness, fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath.
  • Dehydration — New mothers are also at a greater risk of dehydration. Breastfeeding can cause you to lose fluids faster than you may be used to. If you do not replenish these fluids by drinking plenty of water, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated. Juggling long, sleepless nights and busy days caring for your newborn can also make it hard for new mothers to remember to drink water. This can lead to severe dehydration and postpartum dizziness.
  • Postural hypotension — Postural hypotension is a type of low blood pressure that happens when you stand up after sitting or lying down. If you spend long periods of time resting in bed, you may develop postural hypotension during pregnancy or after childbirth. This type of low blood pressure is often mild. Most people only experience brief episodes of dizziness after standing.
  • Low blood sugar — When your blood sugar levels are low, you may experience dizziness or lightheadedness. This is because low blood sugar reduces the flow of necessary fuel to the brain. Low blood sugar can be more common during and after pregnancy. During pregnancy, your body needs more fuel to provide energy for both you and your growing baby. After birth, breastfeeding can also reduce your blood sugar levels. This can cause your blood sugar levels to decrease and in turn cause postpartum dizziness.
  • Postpartum depression — Some women may experience postpartum depression after giving birth. At first, it may seem like a case of the “baby blues.” However, if you experience intense anxiety, mood swings and irritability for a period longer than two to three weeks, you may have postpartum depression. Postpartum depression symptoms can also include a variety of unusual physical symptoms, including dizziness and headache. If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression, help and support are available. Please contact your doctor right away.

Treatment options for postpartum dizziness

Depending on the potential cause of your postpartum dizziness, there are a variety of treatment options available to help manage your symptoms.

If you have low blood sugar, are anemic or are dehydrated, you may need to adjust your diet and lifestyle habits. During pregnancy and after childbirth, it is especially important to be attentive to your body’s needs. You can potentially reduce your postpartum dizziness by:

  • Eating frequently and consistently.
  • Avoiding excessive exercise and activity.
  • Taking iron supplements or eating iron-rich foods.
  • Drinking plenty of water and other fluids, such as natural fruit juices.
  • Avoiding caffeine, which can increase your need to urinate and cause dehydration.

If you make these lifestyle adjustments and still experience postpartum dizziness, it is possible that your symptoms are linked to BPPV or another inner ear issue. In this case, you should consider seeing a physical therapist for vestibular rehabilitation.

BPPV, mentioned above, develops when small calcium crystals in your ear move into the semicircular canals. The semicircular canals are the structures in your inner ears that control balance. When you move your head, these small crystals roll around in your inner ear, causing vertigo. A physical therapist can lead you through a series of exercises that will move these small crystals out of your inner ear. For example, your physical therapist may guide you through the following steps:

  1. Start by sitting up on a bed or table. Turn your head 45 degrees toward the affected ear.
  2. Quickly lie back, keeping your head turned toward the affected ear. As you lie back, hang your head slightly over the edge of the bed or table.
  3. Maintain this position for about a minute or until you stop having symptoms.
  4. Without raising your head, quickly turn your head in the opposite direction. Your “good” ear should be parallel with the table or bed. Wait about a minute.
  5. Roll onto your side. Continue to turn your head until your nose is facing the floor. 
  6. Keeping your chin tucked into your shoulder, sit up in the direction your body is facing.

If your postpartum dizziness is linked to BPPV or another inner ear condition, this and similar repositioning exercises can help reduce your symptoms. 

Struggling with postpartum dizziness? Peak Performance Sports and Physical Therapy can help

Pregnancy and childbirth can take a toll on your body. With the support of our licensed health professionals, you can jump-start your healing journey and celebrate the joys of parenthood sooner rather than later.

Peak Performance Sports and Physical Therapy strives to help people of all ages and abilities enjoy life to the fullest. Contact us today for more information on how we can help reduce your postpartum dizziness symptoms.