Symptoms, Causes and Treatment of Hypokalemia During Pregnancy
Even though pregnancy is a pleasant experience, you’re also at a very delicate phase in your life. And fatigue and normal muscular weakness may be pretty normal during this period, but you still have to be very careful when it comes to your health. Muscle weakness may be brought about by hypokalemia, which is a deficiency of potassium in your bloodstream. This condition can prompt unpleasant complications and jeopardize your pregnancy as well as the health of your unborn baby. So let’s take a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatments for hypokalemia during pregnancy.
What causes hypokalemia?
During pregnancy, your potassium levels can decrease because of vomiting as a result of morning sickness. Another cause of this condition is increased levels of aldosterone, a hormone secreted by your adrenal gland and important for maintaining the pH and electrolyte level of blood. If you take diuretics that make you urinate more than usual, you may suffer from low potassium levels since potassium is filtered through your kidneys. Diarrhea can also lead to this condition, and antibiotics such as carbenicillin and gentamicin can cause hypokalemia.
What are the symptoms of hypokalemia?
It may be difficult to pinpoint the symptoms associated with hypokalemia in pregnant women because these are symptoms common during pregnancy. However, fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle pain, twitches, constipation, nausea, abdominal cramping, and irregular heart rhythms are some of the symptoms to look out for. Muscle pain and fatigue may be usual during pregnancy, but you should consult a physician if you undergo such symptoms in order for hypokalemia to be ruled out.
Treatment of hypokalemia
1. Potassium Supplements
The most common treatment for mild hypokalemia is oral potassium supplements. You can get these supplements in various forms, including tablets, capsules, powder, and liquid. With the powder form, you can mix it with food or water. The liquid supplement is great if you gag or experience nausea when you try to swallow pills. Your doctor will prescribe the manner in which you should take the potassium supplements. If you’re taking any medications, you should inform your physician before you take these supplements because they can react with some medications.
2. Eat foods rich in potassium
Another treatment option is to eat potassium-rich foods, which include potatoes, tomato, yogurt and white beans. Natural, whole foods are the best sources of potassium, and you can also eat peas, lima beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, avocado, bananas, and salmon. Grass-fed beef, raw milk, sardines, and grapefruit are other important sources of potassium.
3. Increase electrolyte intake
During pregnancy, it’s important to increase your intake of electrolytes to 2,000 mg per day in order to keep up your potassium levels as a result of raised blood volume while you are expecting a child. As a pregnant woman, you need potassium for your body to function properly. This mineral helps to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance. Also, it plays a major role in how your body transmits nerve impulses, contracts muscles and releases energy from fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It’s very common for pregnant women to crave pickles, which are rich in electrolytes. You can also take vitamin water, apple juice, and coconut water.
Medication may also be prescribed to treat hypokalemia. If your condition was caused by a thiazide or loop diuretic, and you have a proper renal function, your doctor can prescribe angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. However, ACE inhibitors can have some side effects, which can include a dry cough during pregnancy. If this happens, you should see your doctor in order to discontinue the treatment. Your cough will then be resolved within a few days. You can also be prescribed potassium-sparing diuretics. Your doctor can also prescribe oral potassium chloride, which is excellent for replenishing your potassium levels.
5. Surgical care
When you suffer from hypokalemia, it’s a medical condition and surgical intervention isn’t required. However, you may have to undergo surgery in case of certain etiologies. For instance, if you have renal artery stenosis, which is a narrowing of your arteries, surgery is required. Adrenal adenoma, villous adenoma and intestinal obstruction that produce massive vomiting are other conditions in which surgery is required.
Prevention of Hypokalemia
Prevention is better than cure and if you’re pregnant, you should eat a diet rich in potassium. If you’re using diuretics, you should have your serum potassium routinely monitored to catch hypokalemia during its early stages.