Intake of Potassium During Pregnancy – Need and Importance
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- What Is Potassium?
- Role of Potassium When Pregnant
- What Should Be the Ideal Daily Intake of Potassium?
- What Is the Normal Range of Potassium During Pregnancy?
- High Potassium (Hyperkalaemia) in Pregnancy
- Low Potassium (Hypokalemia) While Pregnant
- Can You Take Potassium Supplements?
- Safe Potassium-rich Foods for Pregnant Women
- Cautionary Tips
When you’re pregnant, you experience radical hormonal changes. These hormonal changes are often the cause of numerous illnesses, diseases and conditions commonly experienced while being pregnant. To counteract this, it is important to have a diet that is specifically designed to balance out these changes. One nutrient that is considered important for this purpose is potassium.
What Is Potassium?
An essential mineral that the body requires, potassium is responsible for numerous important body functions. It helps maintain a balance of electrolytes and fluids inside the body while also being responsible for sending signals and impulses from your nerves to your muscles to help them contract.
Role of Potassium When Pregnant
When you are pregnant, your body expands and will need extra minerals to counteract the side-effects of pregnancy. Here’s why:
- Fluid retention is a common problem in pregnancy. Consuming potassium helps alleviate this issue.
- It is common that women have an electrolyte imbalance during pregnancy. This can cause your immune system to become weaker. Potassium combats against this.
- Leg cramping and restless leg are common during pregnancy and could be caused due to a mineral imbalance. Potassium along with calcium and magnesium is important to avoid this.
What Should Be the Ideal Daily Intake of Potassium?
It is extremely important to note that potassium shouldn’t be consumed in large doses. A potassium overdose in your body can be just as dangerous as having low potassium levels. When consuming supplements or foods rich in potassium, consult a doctor to understand what your natural potassium levels are and the quantity of the supplement you should consume. A general guideline for daily intake of potassium is 4,700 milligrams if you’re not breastfeeding and 5,100 milligrams if you are.
What Is the Normal Range of Potassium During Pregnancy?
The normal range of potassium during pregnancy depends on how far along you are. For instance, during the first trimester, the normal range is between 3.6 mmol/L to 5 mmol/L, during the second trimester the normal range is between 3.3 mmol/L to 5 mmol/L and during the third trimester you can expect a normal range between 3.3 mmol/L to 5.1 mmol/L. Doctors consider a range of 4.4 mmol/L a safe range to maintain during the entire span of the pregnancy.
High Potassium (Hyperkalaemia) in Pregnancy
High potassium levels are extremely dangerous during pregnancy, it can cause a strain of a condition known as hyperkalaemia and in some cases, which can lead to kidney failure or cardiac arrest. It can also cause severe and near-fatal dehydration and aggravate a type of type 1 diabetes of the mellitus strain.
What Are Its Causes
There can be numerous reasons why you get hyperkalaemia. Some of these are:
- Overdose of certain drugs
- Overdose of supplements
- Eating too much potassium rich foods
Signs and Symptoms
It is important that you identify hyperkalaemia as soon as possible and seek medical attention for this. Here are some signs and symptoms of this condition to help you identify it.
- Irregular heartbeats
- Extreme fatigue
- Chest pains
- Irregular pulmonary functions that lead to trouble breathing
- A tingling feeling
For more signs and symptoms of this condition please consult your doctor.
Effects of High Potassium During Pregnancy
The effects of high potassium during pregnancy can be dangerous. It can lead to miscarriages, premature delivery or in some cases a fatal outcome for both the mother and child.
How to Treat It
Early diagnosis is essential to treating this condition. If diagnosed early you will be
- Given calcium supplements to prevent damage to heart muscles.
- Administered insulin, certain diuretics or sodium polystyrene sulfonate to lower potassium levels.
- Severe cases may call for dialysis if there is kidney failure.
It is usually considered a medical emergency and should be treated in a hospital environment with 24-hour care surrounding the mother.
Low Potassium (Hypokalemia) While Pregnant
Another strain of hypokalaemia is the one where your potassium levels are far too low. This can be equally dangerous for the body and should be treated with care. A potassium deficiency can also lead to muscle cramps, trouble with the delivery and other unwanted outcomes for your pregnancy.
What Are Its Causes
Here are a few causes for low potassium during pregnancy:
- An imbalanced diet
- Constant vomiting leading to mineral imbalances in the body
- Diarrhoea leading to a mineral imbalance in the body
- Fluid retention
Signs of Potassium Deficiency
It is important to identify and treat a potassium deficiency during pregnancy. Here are some low potassium in pregnancy symptoms.
- Muscle cramps
- Weakness or tiredness
- Heavy constipation
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Irregular heartbeat or rhythm
- A tingling feeling
- Extremely dry skin
- Low blood pressure
Effects of Low Potassium During Pregnancy
The effects of low potassium are commonly considered dangerous. However, a high potassium level is considered much worse and can lead to fatal outcomes. In extremely rare cases where the potassium is extremely low, it could, in theory, lead to cardiac diseases but this is highly unlikely. It is more common to face a condition known as Edema which is irregular swelling and inflammation throughout your body during pregnancy or you can get a form of UTI due to water retention. This is also a cause of premature delivery. If you think you have these symptoms see a doctor immediately.
How to Treat It
Treating low potassium during pregnancy can be extremely easy. Here are a few ways to ensure you bring your potassium levels up:
- Eat a well-balanced diet with potassium-rich food like potatoes and avocados.
- Take the recommended dose of potassium supplements.
- In extreme cases, your doctor may restore potassium levels through the use of intravenous administration of electrolytes.
Can You Take Potassium Supplements?
At this point, ‘the question can you take potassium pills while pregnant’ must have crossed your mind. The answer is yes, you can take supplements but stick to recommended doses that your doctor prescribes and run it by him before you start. It is considered safer to eat potassium-rich food, however, as the chances of an overdose are less likely.
Safe Potassium-rich Foods for Pregnant Women
Here are a few foods that are naturally rich in potassium that are safe for pregnant women.
A renowned super food, avocados are magnificent for pregnant women because they are a balanced source of vitamins and minerals important for your body, including potassium. Eating one avocado a day is considered extremely healthy.
One of the most delicious ingredients available around the world, this spud is considered a superfood rich in minerals like potassium and magnesium. They are also a rich source of iron, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
3. Sweet Potato
A more protein filled spud than the regular potato, sweet potatoes are also a great source of fibre, iron, vitamins and minerals including potassium. This is considered one of the most healthy root vegetables around.
Be it kidney beans, pinto beans or lima beans, beans, in general, are considered extremely healthy in limited doses for your body. A single cup of 500mg of beans is all you need to keep your potassium levels in check. You can always add them to salads or other dishes or eat them as a stand-alone snack.
A fruit that is often considered a staple in most parts of the world, not only does the banana help combat constipation by being a natural laxative, it also is rich in fibre and potassium. One banana a day is all you need to keep your potassium levels balanced.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when adding potassium to your diet.
- Never take supplements without talking to a doctor. An imbalance in potassium levels can be extremely dangerous.
- Don’t exceed recommended dosages of supplements.
- Don’t focus on only potassium when planning a diet. This can cause an imbalance in other areas of your nutrition chart.
When adding potassium to your diet, it is recommended that you seek the advice of your doctor and draw up a meal plan with the help of your nutritionist. Remember, a balanced diet is not overly reliant on one mineral. Talk to your nutritionist for more information on how to plan your diet when pregnant.
Also Read: Taking Vitamin E During Pregnancy