Potassium During Pregnancy: Is It Good Or Bad For You

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Consuming foods rich in potassium during pregnancy is crucial because studies show that potassium deficiency may harm fetal development (embryonic growth). Therefore, you must consume enough potassium in your regular diet to ensure the health of your unborn child.

This post discusses the health benefits of potassium in pregnancy, its daily requirement, and how it influences the well-being of your unborn child. This post also discusses the causes and symptoms of low potassium in pregnancy, treatment options, and some potassium-rich foods to eat during pregnancy.

What is Potassium?

Potassium is a vital mineral, which enhances your muscle/nerve communication, body’s electrolyte balance, and optimal fetal growth. But, it is important to keep a close watch on your potassium levels in pregnancy, as high levels (hyperkalemia) can lead to many complications.

Importance Of Potassium During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body requires optimum amounts of potassium to function properly. The vital mineral helps maintain your body’s fluid and electrolyte balance. Additionally, it plays a pivotal role in the contraction of your body muscles, transmission of nerve impulses, and release of energy from vital nutrients like fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Along with sodium, the presence of potassium regulates your healthy blood pressure level. A low or high degree of potassium during pregnancy can impose adverse effects and can lead to unwanted complexities.

As the volume of your blood expands up to one-and-a-half times of its original during pregnancy, you may need to have an adequate level of potassium to maintain the right chemical balance of your body. Moreover, the regular intake of potassium-rich foods can prevent leg cramps that are a common occurrence during pregnancy.

Daily Requirement Of Potassium During Pregnancy

Taking an adequate amount of potassium during pregnancy can keep you protected from complexities, and you can step towards a healthy childbirth. In general, most doctors may recommend an intake of 2,900 milligrams (mg) of potassium daily. In the case of a nursing mother, the intake should be around 2,800 mg per day (1).

Causes Of Low Potassium During Pregnancy

You may suffer from potassium deficiency during pregnancy when you do not consume a healthy and well-balanced diet. Additionally, persistent vomiting and severe diarrhea can also cause a sudden drop in your potassium levels. During such health conditions, doctors usually recommend intake of diuretics to reduce extra fluid from your body.

You suffer from potassium deficiency when the electrolyte balance of your body gets disturbed.

When you have three watery bowel movements on a single day, it is important for you to consume more fluids. Severe diarrhea and nausea can impose serious health complications for your unborn baby and can increase the risk of preterm birth.

Did you know?
Pregnant women may experience pica and crave non-nutritive substances, such as clay. If ingested, clay can bind potassium in the gastrointestinal tract and increase its excretion, leading to hypokalemia (3) (1).

Symptoms Of Low Potassium During Pregnancy

Here are some of the common symptoms of low potassium during pregnancy:

  • Constipation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Unusual weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Low blood pressure

Researchers concluded that low potassium in pregnancy causes a body swelling condition known as edema. It mostly occurs during the third trimester of your pregnancy. As soon as you experience any of the above symptoms, get in touch with your gynecologist who can immediately determine the level of potassium in your blood.

Treating Low Potassium During Pregnancy

To overcome pregnancy complexities, your doctor may recommend you to eat a well-balanced diet, so that you can avoid dropping potassium levels. You need to increase your electrolyte intake to 2,000mg per day so that your electrolyte balance gets regulated and it elevates the blood volume naturally. As soon as your doctor diagnoses you with a low potassium level, he may encourage you to take potassium-rich foods or sometimes supplements to raise the level. In some rare cases, the doctors may restore the potassium level using intravenous administration of electrolytes.

Best Potassium-Rich Foods To Eat During Pregnancy

Here is a complete list of potassium-rich foods, which you can safely consume during pregnancy:

1. Potatoes:

  • You can intake different varieties of potatoes like red, white, or sweet to elevate your daily intake of potassium.
  • A single medium sized Russet potato supplies almost 900 mg of potassium per day.
  • Apart from potassium, potatoes contain a high percentage of iron, fiber, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin C, that helps in your baby’s growth.
  • Try to eat baked potatoes, instead of deep frying them. Make sure to avoid adding unsaturated fats like melted cheese and sour cream to your potato recipes.

2. Sun-dried tomatoes

  • Though you can get potassium from fresh tomatoes also, the sun-dried tomatoes supply almost 1,800 mg of potassium per single cup serving.
  • Besides being low in fat, sun-dried tomatoes contain a high percentage of vitamin C, fiber, and aids in regulating your digestive system and boosts the immune system functioning during pregnancy.
  • You can use sun-dried tomatoes to prepare salads, sandwiches and pizza toppings.

3. Kidney beans

  • You can think of adding nutritious kidney beans to your daily diet, to increase your potassium level naturally.
  • A single cup of kidney beans supplies almost 600mg of potassium per day.
  • You can simply use them in your salads or mash them with pepper and salt and have them in your burrito filling.
  • Some of the other bean varieties rich in potassium are pinto beans, white beans, and lima beans.
Quick fact
A cup of cooked lentils provides about 731mg of potassium, which can fulfill about 25% of your daily potassium needs (1).

4. Dried fruits

  • To satisfy your sugar craving during pregnancy, you can eat potassium-rich dried fruits like figs, apricots, and peaches.
  • A single cup of dried fruits supplies almost 1,500 mg of potassium per day.

5. Bananas

  • One of the best potassium-rich foods to eat during pregnancy is banana, as it easily satisfies your appetite.
  • A single banana supplies almost 400mg of potassium to your body.
  • The energy-boosting fruit contains a high percentage of fiber, vitamins B6 and C.
  • Some of the other potassium-rich fruits to eat during pregnancy are oranges, kiwi, strawberries, and cantaloupe (2).
Quick tip
Instead of refined flour and white rice, consume whole-wheat flour and brown rice, as they are much higher in potassium (1).

A Word Of Caution

  • Pregnant women with low potassium levels should always seek guidance from their gynecologist, before taking supplements.
  • The doctor may prescribe the accurate dosage of potassium supplements during pregnancy, and you need to intake them cautiously. As an uncontrolled intake of supplements can cause cardiovascular issues like abnormal heart rhythms or palpitations.
  • You should avoid practicing strenuous physical activities with low potassium levels, as it can complicate your pregnancy.

Did you suffer from potassium deficiency during your pregnancy? Did you gynecologist recommend you to intake potassium supplement? What dosages did the doctor prescribe? Share your complete story here.


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