Nutrition & Lifestyle Tips to Manage Preeclampsia
If you're like most pregnant women, you're probably looking for all the tips and tricks to help you have a healthy pregnancy. While there's no one sure way to prevent preeclampsia, eating a nutritious diet and adopting some simple lifestyle habits can lower your risk. Here are some tips to help you stay healthy, identify signs and symptoms of preeclampsia, and have a healthy full-term pregnancy.
What Is Preeclampsia?
This uncomfortable and potentially dangerous complication of pregnancy can range from mild to severe preeclampsia. Symptoms of preeclampsia can range from swelling in the feet, ankles, and face, decreased urine output, general fatigue, shortness of breath severe headaches, sudden weight gain, blurred vision, and belly pain just below the ribs, to nausea or vomiting. This should not be confused with gestational hypertension, which is only high blood pressure without any additional symptoms.
Knowledge Is Power
We don't share this information to scare you, but we do want you to be informed and not hesitate to reach out to your primary care provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. If left untreated preeclampsia can lead to more serious complications including seizures (eclampsia), stroke, organ damage, placental abruption, fetal growth restriction, and preterm birth. Early treatment of preeclampsia can help protect mama and baby from potential complications.
What Causes Preeclampsia?
It’s no secret that what we eat can have a profound impact on our physical and mental health. When it comes to preeclampsia, studies suggest that poor nutrition may be a contributing factor. There is no one cause of preeclampsia, but researchers agree that there is a close relationship between diet and nutrition. As a result, paying attention to the nutritional content of your meals could help reduce your risk factors (keep reading for specifics).
Risk Factors of Developing Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia can occur in any pregnancy, however, some factors may increase your risk. These include being pregnant with multiples, having a family history of preeclampsia, being older than 40 years old, carrying a female baby, having had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy, and having pre-existing conditions such as chronic hypertension or diabetes before becoming pregnant. Let know your provider if you have any of these conditions so you can keep an eye on your symptoms throughout pregnancy and get the appropriate care as needed.
How is Preeclampsia Diagnosed?
Routine prenatal care visits are typically where preeclampsia is identified. The doctor checks for signs such as high blood pressure, protein in the urine, an abnormal platelet count, elevated liver enzymes, or swelling. Depending on these findings, other blood tests or urine tests may be needed to make a definitive diagnosis. If the doctor determines that preeclampsia is present and severe enough, they may recommend treatment options beyond diet and lifestyle to keep both the mother and baby healthy.
Other treatments during & after pregnancy
Some doctors can prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure and they may ask you to perform regular blood pressure checks at home. After your baby is born, preeclampsia usually resolves in less than 24 hours.
While less common, a condition called postpartum preeclampsia has many of the same signs and symptoms of gestational preeclampsia. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above after giving birth, it is important to contact your doctor immediately as this condition can become serious if left untreated.
How Diet Can Affect Preeclampsia Symptoms
It's fairly common knowledge that consuming too much sodium can cause blood pressure to rise, but other than cutting back on sodium, how can mamas diagnosed with preeclampsia tailor their diet to reduce their symptoms?
Eating a healthy balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help provide the additional vitamins and minerals you may need during this demanding time. Additionally, reducing your intake of processed foods (which tend to be higher in sodium), and unhealthy fats (trans fats, highly processed oils) will help reduce potential issues that could arise from these types of food.
Good nutrition is essential for keeping your health and well-being in check. major changes to your diet should be discussed with your healthcare provider to make sure the changes are beneficial for managing preeclampsia and do not pose any further risks or have any negative outcomes. Taking the time to nourish and care for yourself with the foods you enjoy can improve both your physical and mental well-being as you manage preeclampsia.
Supplements That Help Manage Preeclampsia
Women suffering from preeclampsia may require additional vitamins and minerals to help them manage their condition. Supplements that can aid in the management of preeclampsia include magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, zinc, and folate.
Magnesium is important for managing high blood pressure associated with preeclampsia. Magnesium helps relax the body’s blood vessels, which can help reduce the strain on your cardiovascular system. Many women find that taking a supplement containing around 400mg of magnesium per day helps to keep their blood pressure levels within the normal range.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are often recommended for pregnant women as they help reduce inflammation and may be beneficial in managing preeclampsia symptoms. Omega-3 supplements have also been known to improve heart health, decrease blood clotting, and promote healthy fetal development. A daily dose of 2–3g of EPA/DHA is usually recommended for those suffering from preeclampsia.
Calcium is important for keeping bones strong during pregnancy and reducing the risk of preeclampsia in high-risk pregnancies. Taking 1 gram of calcium per day has been shown to reduce preeclampsia risk by up to 50 percent when taken in combination with other preventive measures such as regular exercise and healthy eating habits.
Zinc is important for maintaining a healthy immune system during pregnancy and fighting off infections that could pose a risk to mama or baby’s health. Studies have found that taking 15 mg of zinc per day may be effective in reducing the chance of preterm labor or delivery due to preeclampsia symptoms too severe to manage naturally with diet changes alone.
folate is an important micronutrient that helps pregnant mothers maintain their energy level while also playing a role in preventing birth defects such as spina bifida or cleft lip/palate in developing fetuses. Folate deficiencies can increase a woman's risk for preeclampsia, so it's important to make sure you're getting enough through foods like dark leafy greens, beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits - additional folate supplementation may be necessary depending on your individual needs determined by your healthcare provider.
Lifestyle Habits To Reduce Risk Or Manage Preeclampsia
Aside from diet, several lifestyle habits can help reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia:
- Regular exercise helps improve blood flow throughout the body and encourages better circulation as well as reduces blood pressure, and stress.
- Taking measures to reduce stress is also important in reducing preeclampsia risk, as women who experience more stress during their pregnancy are more likely to develop the condition.
- Prenatal vitamins contain important nutrients such as folate and iron that can help ensure a healthy pregnancy. Folate especially helps with preeclampsia prevention when taken regularly throughout the entirety of the pregnancy.
- Staying well-hydrated is also key in helping reduce preeclampsia risk. When pregnant women become dehydrated or do not consume enough fluids, their bodies become less efficient at flushing out waste products and toxins which can increase their risk of developing preeclampsia and other conditions such as gestational diabetes. Drinking enough fluids to keep urine pale and clear will keep our bodies hydrated and functioning properly.
Keep Calm And Have A Healthy Pregnancy
It's common to feel overwhelmed when you're first diagnosed with preeclampsia. Remember that you are not alone - many other women face this condition! Fortunately, it is possible to manage preeclampsia successfully.
With the right nutrition, daily habits and sometimes medical care, you can have a healthy pregnancy despite preeclampsia. With positive thinking, proper self-care, and an understanding of your condition, you can have a joyful, healthy pregnancy!
The best things you can do for your health and the health of your baby are to be aware of preeclampsia risk factors, maintain healthy lifestyle habits, and see your healthcare provider regularly. This will help ensure that any changes in your health are caught early on and help minimize further complications.
It's also important to stay informed about the warning signs so you know what to look out for. If you have any concerns or questions regarding preeclampsia, please speak with your doctor or midwife. While we are Registered Dietitians and can make personalized recommendations for diet to improve high blood pressure and symptoms of preeclampsia, preeclampsia is a serious condition and should be discussed with your provider directly.