During pregnancy, your body requires potassium to function at its best. An essential mineral, potassium helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance. It also plays a significant role in the transmission of nerve impulses, contraction of your muscles and release of energy from carbohydrates, fat and protein. Along with sodium, potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Low potassium during pregnancy can cause serious adverse effects.
Symptoms of Low Potassium
Potassium shortage in pregnancy can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, abnormal heart rhythms, constipation and weakness. According to the American Pregnancy Association, low potassium during pregnancy can result in swelling, also called edema. Swelling is most conspicuous in the third trimester. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately to determine the level of potassium in your blood.
Causes of Low Potassium
A potassium deficiency during your pregnancy seldom arises from a shortage in your diet, says BabyCenter; rather, low potassium levels are usually the outcome of long-term or severe diarrhea and vomiting or the use of diuretics -- medicines that aid the elimination of extra fluid from your body. If you are having three watery bowel movements a day, make sure to keep yourself hydrated, advises the American Pregnancy Association. While diarrhea is rarely dangerous, you should not take it too lightly, especially when you are pregnant. Mild to moderate nausea along with occasional vomiting won't affect your baby's health, but severe and prolonged vomiting has been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth, says BabyCenter.
Treatment of Low Potassium
If you are short on potassium, your doctor may recommend getting more through your diet. You can easily meet your potassium goals by eating foods such as baked sweet potatoes, beet greens, plain nonfat yogurt, spinach, tomato juice, orange juice, kidney beans, Pacific cod, halibut, lentils, dried peaches and winter squash. You may not need to take potassium supplements if you regularly eat potassium-rich foods, reports BabyCenter.
Daily Requirements of Potassium
Getting the recommended amount of potassium can help keep problems associated with low potassium levels at bay. According to the Colorado State University Extension, pregnant women should consume about 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. During pregnancy, your blood volume expands by as much as 50 percent; therefore, you need more electrolytes, including potassium, to maintain a normal balance of extra fluid in your body.
- BabyCenter: Potassium in Your Pregnancy Diet
- Colorado State University Extension: Potassium and the Diet
- American Pregnancy Association: Swelling During Pregnancy
- MedlinePlus: Heart Failure -- Fluids and Diuretics
- American Pregnancy Association: Diarrhea During Pregnancy
- BabyCenter: Morning Sickness: Causes, Concerns, Treatments