During pregnancy, your body needs potassium to function at its best. An essential mineral, potassium helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, and release of energy from carbohydrates, fat and protein. The daily recommended dosage of potassium in a woman is about 4700 mg per day. Low potassium during pregnancy can cause serious adverse effects. Dr. Aruna Muralidhar, Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Fortis La Femme, Bengaluru breaks down the significance of potassium during pregnancy.
What is the significance of potassium during pregnancy?
Although the requirement of potassium does not increase during pregnancy, regular intake of potassium-rich food is important as the blood volume expands by 50 percent during pregnancy. There may also be a loss of potassium and other minerals due to pregnancy-related vomiting.
What causes low levels of potassium during pregnancy?
Low potassium is most often the result of chronic or severe vomiting or diarrhoea, or certain medications such as diuretics (medicines used for treating high blood pressure), rather than a shortage of the mineral in the diet. Low potassium can be diagnosed by a routine blood test. Irregular heartbeats can be seen on an ECG.
What happens when potassium levels are low during pregnancy?
Initial symptoms are very difficult to recognise as most of them are common during pregnancy. You may experience fatigue, swelling of the feet and ankles due to water retention, dizziness due to lower blood pressure, numbness of fingers and toes, unusual weakness in the muscles, constipation, and mood swings. You may also experience abnormal heartbeat, depression, confusion or hallucinations in severe cases.
How can low potassium during pregnancy be treated?
In the initial stages, when the deficiency is mild, increasing potassium-rich foods in the diet would suffice. Foods rich in potassium include bananas, tomato, spinach, mushroom, fish, avocados, and potatoes. Moderate deficiency may need oral potassium replacement treatment like syrups, capsules, and tablets. In very severe cases, an intravenous drip of potassium may be required for which intensive monitoring is essential.
What happens when potassium levels go up during pregnancy?
Hyperkalemia or high potassium levels during pregnancy can be dangerous. In extreme cases, this may result in a cardiac arrest. However, this is extremely rare and is likely to happen due to kidney failure or consumption of certain drugs and alcohol. Severe dehydration and type 1 diabetes mellitus may also trigger this condition.
How can hyperkalemia be treated?
Hyperkalemia is a medical emergency and needs to be treated in a hospital setting.
Keep in mind that early recognition and treatment would help avert unnecessary adverse outcomes. Regular routine check-ups during pregnancy are a must.