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How can maternal nutrition aid Preeclampsia during pregnancy?

Updated: Sep 29, 2019

Preeclampsia is a hypertensive condition that occurs during pregnancy typically around 20 weeks gestation.

It is more likely to occur in women who previously had gestational diabetes and/or gestational hypertension. Some women may be more genetically predisposed and therefore more at risk as well as women carrying multiples. The main symptoms are high blood pressure as well as protein loss in the urine. Other symptoms include headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, shortness of breath, urinating infrequently, tendency to bruise easily, and upper right abdominal pain.

If preeclampsia is not treated or becomes out of control it may cause 'eclampsia'.

Eclampsia could result in seizures or HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count) and effect blood clotting and liver function. Most often it is treated by blood pressure medications, diet--- and if the baby is close enough to its due date, the baby may be induced. If not monitored and treated, it can effect the baby's development and in some cases lead to a miscarriage.

Usually, after the baby is born, the preeclampsia symptoms will go away.

So how can you change your diet to either prevent/aid preeclampsia complications?

The DASH diet (aka 'Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension') is used to help with hypertension, but is also helpful during pregnancy. It recommends reducing sodium intake by increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy foods---while also cutting back on saturated fats, cholesterol, trans fats, and of course, sodium.

This diet recommends consuming no more than 2,300mg of sodium each day (this is the recommended daily allowance for all adults), or on a lower sodium DASH diet, up to 1,500mg daily.

Although this is called a diet, DASH suggests a generally healthful (non-restrictive) way of eating; consuming 6-8 servings of whole grains a day, 4-5 servings of vegetables a day, 4-5 servings of fruit a day, 2-3 servings of low fat dairy a day, a total of 6oz of lean meats a day, and legumes 4-5 servings per week.

The DASH diet also sticks by the scientifically accepted recommendation of alcohol intake: 1 drink for women 2 for men a day, excluding pregnant women.

Fun Fact: Studies have shown that the DASH diet can decrease overall blood pressure by approximately 8-14 points.

These nutritional guidelines, along with adequate fluid intake and minimal caffeine intake, may help with preeclampsia symptoms and help to prevent the condition from worsening.

Studies show...

Researchers found that women who followed a 'healthier diet', similar to the DASH diet, before and during pregnancy were less likely to develop preeclampsia. They determined this 'diet rating' through intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, red/processed meats, nuts and legumes, sugar sweetened beverages, and sodium intake.

To conclude...

If you are struggling with preeclampsia or want to prevent it through your diet---Mamas Maternal Health is here for you! With both nutrition and lactation counseling, we can help you with all of your maternal and infant nutrition needs. See our website here and find out how we can help you!.

Until next time!

Cassie and Mikayla

Mamas Maternal Health Dietitians/Lactation Counselors



Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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