Our body needs several minerals to run different functions normally. One of the most important minerals, if not taken adequate quantity will affect the body function badly, is potassium. What is The Importance Of Mineral Potassium During Pregnancy? Potassium is a mineral generally found in many food items like fruits, vegetables, yogurt, milk, red meat, fish, chicken etc. Potassium plays a significant role in keeping up fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Potassium is also a key mineral helping in muscle contraction, boosting nerve communications, and also releasing energy from the carbohydrates, protein and fat. It also regulates blood pressure along with sodium.
How Are Sodium And Potassium Related?
Sodium and potassium perform almost same body function. Both are electrolytes (carrying electric charges) helping muscle contraction and nerve communication. But, both will do the same function in opposing manner.
That is, when sodium pulls fluid out of the cells increasing blood pressure, potassium draws fluid into the cells decreasing blood pressure. Both together will regulate the blood pressure. Also, sodium intake always affects the potassium excretion from the body and vice versa. Thus, elevated intake of one mineral will result in intensifying the excretion of the other mineral.
What Is The Significance Of Potassium During Pregnancy?
Though a pregnant woman require almost same amount of potassium as a non-pregnant woman (4,700 mg per day), regular intake of potassium rich food should be increased as:
- The blood volume expands 50% during pregnancy. To keep the extra volume in right chemical balance, a little more electrolyte (sodium, potassium and chloride together) is needed.
- Lots of potassium that is taken can be lost through vomiting associated with the morning sickness. To balance this the intake should be increased slightly.
Taking adequate quantity of potassium in the diet of the pregnant woman will help to minimize uneasiness which are common during pregnancy like Leg cramps and swelling of ankles and feet
What Happens When Potassium levels Are Lower During Pregnancy?
When potassium levels falls below normal level can result in the following conditions:
- Edema is the swelling cause during pregnancy due to water retention. It can occur in any part of the body. But most swellings are found to concentrate on ankles and legs. For this, the blame goes to “the gravity”.
- Low blood pressure.
- Abnormal heart beats.
- Unusual weakness in the muscles.
Most significantly, low levels of potassium in pregnancy can lead to a condition called hypokalemia. Untreated hypokalemia can end in severe kidney problems or even death.
What Are Some Potassium Rich Foods That Are Good During Pregnancy?
Some of the special, potassium rich food are:
- Bananas, which are an energy boosting fruit not only contains potassium but also a high percentage of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
- Dried fruits like apricot, peaches, raisins, figs etc. which can also satisfy the sugar carving common during pregnancy without arising other complications.
- Sun dried tomatoes which provide more potassium in a single cup serving.
Should I Take Potassium Supplements During Pregnancy?
Most of the time, potassium supplements are not needed as there are plenty of food items which are rich in potassium. Even if you think a large amount of potassium is being lost through vomiting, it is important to seek guidance from your doctor to determine adequate dosage, as uncontrolled intake of potassium can cause dangerous issues. If your doctor diagnoses low-level potassium he will decide how to restore potassium level on your blood depending on the severity. The restoration of potassium can vary from a renewed diet to intravenous administration of electrolyte.
What Happens When Potassium Levels Are Elevated During Pregnancy?
When potassium levels becomes higher than the normal level in the blood, it can lead to dangerous and probably deadly issues. The situation with higher potassium level is called hyperkalemia. Untreated hyperkalemia can result in the death of the mother as the heart can stop beating.
Hyperkalemia can be caused due to:
- Kidney failure: Kidney failure makes it impossible for the body to eliminate the extra potassium from the body.
- Drugs and alcohol consumption: Usage of drugs and alcohol can result in breaking down of muscle. This, in turn, releases a high amount of potassium into the blood from muscle cells.
- Dehydration, type 1 diabetes etc. can trigger hyperkalemia.
What Are The Symptoms Of High Potassium Level In The Blood?
Slight elevation in potassium levels often cause no noticeable symptoms. If the potassium level elevate enough to cause symptoms, the signs include:
- Issues develop which makes breathing difficult.
- Uncontrollable nausea and vomiting.
- Chest pain.
- Skipped heart beat.
- Feeling terribly tired.
Extreme hyperkalemia can cause paralysis.
How can Hyperkalemia Be Treated?
Hyperkalemia can be treated by:
- Low potassium diet: limit the food items that are high in potassium. Avoid salt supplements that listed KCl (potassium chloride).
- Hemodialysis: Here, a machine is used to remove the waste as the kidneys are unable to do it.
- Using diuretics: Diuretics are medicines which cause you urinate more. This will help the kidney to eliminate more potassium. But during pregnancy, make sure you drink plenty of water, to eliminate the possibilities of dehydration.
Hence, even though potassium is an important and unavoidable mineral, regulating its level in the blood is as important as making sure adequate quantity of potassium is taken.