How Much Sodium Is Too Much for Pregnant Women?

There's never a more important time in life to eat healthy than during pregnancy. In the past, pregnant women were advised to be cautious of salt intake to minimize bloating and water retention. While you can't avoid those common pregnancy complaints, salt won't exacerbate them, and it is needed to maintain fluid levels. If you only seem to be eating salty foods, however, you and your baby may have adverse health consequences, especially if you have high blood pressure. Speak to your doctor about what is right for you.

Pregnant woman eating a pickle in the kitchen. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Sodium Recommendations

Blood volume increases during pregnancy. Salt is needed for healthy cell functioning because it maintains fluid volume outside your cells. The Institute of Medicine has set the adequate intake of sodium at 1.5 grams per day during pregnancy, which is the same for non-pregnant adults. This equates to 3.8 grams of table salt per day, as table salt is about 40 percent sodium. The tolerable upper intake limit of sodium is 2.3 grams per day, or 5.8 grams of salt.

High Blood Pressure

If you have chronic high blood pressure you should be cautious of how much salt you're eating, advises registered dietitian Amanda Leonard on the BabyCenter website. You can be diagnosed with chronic hypertension before you become pregnant or before your 20th week of pregnancy. With high blood pressure, less blood, oxygen and nutrients are getting delivered to your baby, putting you at risk for a host of pregnancy complications. Chronic hypertension during pregnancy is managed through medication, additional monitoring of you and your baby, and lifestyle changes, including cutting back on your salt intake.


If you develop high blood pressure after your 20th week of pregnancy, and there's protein in your urine, you have preeclampsia. Symptoms of preeclampsia are swelling of your hands and face and sudden weight gain. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but your diet may be a contributing factor. The only way to treat preeclampsia is by delivering your baby. If you are not far enough along yet, your doctor will probably recommend you reduce your sodium intake. If you already have high blood pressure and aren't cautious about your salt intake, you can developed superimposed preeclampsia, putting you and your baby at even greater risk of complications.

Calcium Excretion

If you're pregnant, it is critical you get enough calcium. Your baby needs calcium to develop properly. If you aren't getting enough of this nutrient, your body will pull calcium from your bones to ensure your baby's development. This puts you at risk for decreased bone mass and osteoporosis later in life. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, a high salt diet causes you to lose calcium in your urine, taking this vital nutrient away from you and your baby.

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