Table salt contains about 2,000 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon. Too much or too little salt intake during pregnancy can negatively affect your sodium levels. As with other nutrients, pregnant women need more sodium than non-pregnant women. While over-indulging in table salt can be harmful, you must be sure you are satisfying your body's needs. Speak with your doctor concerning the amount of sodium that's right for your particular situation.
Fluid Retention and Swelling
Swelling, also known as edema, in your feet, ankles, legs and hands is a normal part of pregnancy. It occurs because your body is increasing its production of fluids, which is essential, especially during the later weeks of pregnancy. Eating too much salt can exacerbate your swelling. Don't restrict salty snacks, but try to stay within your recommended limits, which may mean not adding extra table salt to your plate.
Impaired Kidney Development
A study published in the "American Journal of Physiology -- Renal Physiology" in 2011 found that having too much or too little salt while pregnant can both impact kidney development. In the study, pregnant rats were fed low-, medium- or high-salt diets. Kidney development and function, and blood pressure was assessed in each of the rats. Those whose mothers had a low- and high-sodium intake had less-developed kidneys and higher blood pressures.
Calcium Loss and Pre-Eclampsia
High sodium intake increases the amount of calcium your body excretes. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, for every 2.3 grams of sodium your kidneys filter out, 24 to 40 milligrams of calcium is drawn into the urine for excretion. A reduction in calcium inside your body can increase the likelihood of developing pregnancy-induced hypertension. This is high blood pressure that can result in the development of preeclampsia, a dangerous condition characterized by severe swelling and protein in your urine, which can progress into seizures and premature childbirth.
Risks of Too Little Sodium
During pregnancy, many hormones are higher than normal. One hormone in particular influences the sodium inside your body; this is progesterone. High progesterone levels increase the sodium in your urine, which means your body is holding on to less of this essential mineral. Reducing your sodium intake can result in an altered fluid balance, which disrupts the health of mother and child. During pregnancy, your body needs more fluid for your changing body and the baby. Without enough sodium, you may not be able to retain the appropriate amount of fluid you need. An analysis of nutrition during pregnancy in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2003 also found that women on a low-sodium diet during pregnancy lack overall nutrition. Research indicates that when pregnant women are told to limit sodium, they also limit protein, calcium and calories -- three essential parts of a healthy pregnancy diet. Though you should not restrict the salt in your diet, you should also not increase your table salt intake. A regular, well-balanced diet should be enough to provide the sodium both you and your baby need.
- WhatToExpect.com: Pregnancy Swelling
- American Physiological Society: Both High and Low Maternal Salt Intake in Pregnancy Alters Kidney Development in the Offspring
- Linus Pauling Institute: Calcium
- PubMed Health: Preeclampsia
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Nutrient Involvement In Preeclampsia