Potassium During Pregnancy
In This Article:
Our body needs certain nutrients to function at its best and successfully carry a baby to term during pregnancy. We may not think about the essential mineral potassium during pregnancy.
Read on to learn what is potassium good for, how it affects a pregnant mom’s body, how to include more in the diet, and how high or low levels of potassium can affect you and your baby.
★ WHAT IS POTASSIUM?
Potassium is a mineral that is essential to the human body. Our bodies don’t naturally produce potassium. You may be asking “What does potassium do in your body?”. This mineral has quite a few responsibilities; it helps the body maintain fluid balances and electrolyte balances, supports nerve signals, regulates muscle contraction, and helps maintain our blood pressure.
★ WHY IS POTASSIUM IMPORTANT IN PREGNANCY?
Interestingly enough, the need for enough potassium grows as our body starts to grow and expand while pregnant. As we know, some swelling and fluid retention is a normal things that moms deal with during pregnancy. Having a good potassium intake is an excellent way to alleviate this swelling, as the mineral helps maintain fluid within the body.
You will probably get enough potassium from your diet, but for some people, this falls short. Some pregnant women have to deal with restless legs and leg cramping. Sometimes this is due to a lack of minerals within the body, and having enough potassium may help combat this issue.
There is a list of things that pregnant women need to keep in mind during pregnancy, and making sure that potassium is in the diet definitely makes that list.
★ WHAT IS HYPOKALEMIA?
Hypokalemia, or potassium deficiency, is when our potassium levels are too low in the body. Low potassium causes can be due to an intake of low potassium foods and is a common side effect of pregnancy. When we have an imbalanced diet, especially during pregnancy, we may not get adequate vitamins, minerals, and important nutrients, including potassium. As we know, it's also common to experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea during pregnancy which unfortunately can cause potassium and electrolyte imbalances (usually in more chronic or severe cases).
It can be a bit tricky to tell when a pregnant mom has potassium deficiency, as many symptoms of hypokalemia are similar to regular pregnancy symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Fatigue or feeling tired
- Numbness of fingers and toes
- Swelling of feet and ankles
- Muscle weakness or cramping
- Mood swings
- Dry skin
- Low blood pressure
- Abnormal heart rhythms, depression, hallucination, and confusion in more severe cases.
You should be visiting your OBGYN routinely, where blood tests will tell the amount of potassium in the blood and help diagnose hypokalemia in pregnancy. If you feel as though you are experiencing these symptoms, let your doctor know!
For moms who experience low potassium during pregnancy that is mild, your doctor or registered dietitian may recommend increasing your intake of potassium-rich foods.
In a case of a moderate deficiency of potassium, your doctor may recommend potassium supplements. If the deficiency has become severe, you may need to undergo intensive monitoring and receive an intravenous (IV) infusion of potassium. Severe hypokalemia or untreated hypokalemia can be very dangerous for mom and baby, so it’s important to visit your doctor regularly to fix any problems!
★ WHAT IS HYPERKALEMIA?
Hyperkalemia is when potassium levels in the body are too high. Fortunately, avoiding hyperkalemia is easier than avoiding hypokalemia. Although easier, it can still be dangerous to mom and baby if left untreated and is usually treated in a hospital setting.
★ WHAT MAY CAUSE HYPERKALEMIA?
- Kidney failure
- Internal bleeding
- Certain medications, like ACE inhibitors
- Use of supplements
- Type 1 diabetes
As you can see, many of these causes of hyperkalemia are related to pre-existing medical conditions.
Having too much potassium in the blood actually shows similar symptoms to having too little potassium. It’s important to tell your doctor or seek medical advice if you experience those symptoms!
★ HOW CAN I GET MORE POTASSIUM DURING PREGNANCY?
The best way to get adequate potassium during pregnancy is through a diet. Consuming a well-balanced diet while including potassium-rich foods is a great way to keep your potassium levels steady or combat hypokalemia. Working with a registered dietitian can help you figure out what foods are high in potassium and which of these foods would work best to incorporate into your diet.
Food sources of potassium include:
- Sweet potato
- Beans and lentils
Evidently, fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of potassium-rich foods. Incorporating them into the diet each day is a perfect way to ensure that you have adequate potassium in the body, reducing the risk of developing hypokalemia.
Recent studies have shown people with high blood pressure can benefit from increasing their potassium intake to help lower their systolic (top number) blood pressure.
★ HOW MUCH POTASSIUM DOES A PREGNANT WOMAN NEED?
If your doctor recommends or prescribes you to take potassium supplements, it’s important to follow their direction with accurate amounts. It’s recommended that pregnant women don’t take supplements unless directed to do so by their physician.
Pregnant women who are 18 years or younger should have about 2,600 mg of potassium per day, and if breastfeeding, 2,500 mg of potassium per day.
Pregnant women who are 19 years or older should have about 2,900 mg per day, and if breastfeeding, 2,800 mg of potassium per day.
If you get a blood test done at a routine appointment, your doctor may inform you of normal potassium levels in your blood.
★ WHAT IS A NORMAL POTASSIUM LEVEL FOR A PREGNANT WOMAN?
During your first trimester, a normal range of potassium is between 3.6 to 5 mmol/L
During your second trimester, a normal range of potassium is between 3.3 to 5 mmol/L
During your third trimester, a normal range of potassium is between 3.3 to 5.1 mmol/L
Your doctor will let you know if you are out of range and the next step.