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Experts Corner

Nutrition

Salt Consumption During Pregnancy
By Mediconsult's Nutrition Services

Q. Should I cut back on salt during pregnancy?

A. Many women are casually advised by friends or family to restrict their salt intake to prevent 'swelling' of feet and ankles. This is not a current medical recommendation. While it is prudent to avoid 'excess' salt use, sodium restriction should not be casually undertaken. Edema (accumulation of fluid) in the feet and legs often occurs during pregnancy. This is a result of increased estrogen production and greater blood volume. Estrogen increases a mother's ability to absorb water into connective tissue, thus fluid retention is naturally higher. At the same time, progesterone increases the sodium content of urine, so more sodium than usual is lost by women during pregnancy. Therefore, despite the presence of edema, sodium needs still increase for pregnant women.

Although the increase in sodium requirement is not dramatic, it is important. Restricting sodium during pregnancy can cause problems for mother and her fetus, by disrupting this delicate fluid balance. Edema that occurs during pregnancy is not considered harmful, unless high blood pressure or protein loss in urine is also occurring. If your obstetrician advises a low sodium diet, clarify with the doctor the extent of sodium restriction and any fluid recommendation being made to you.

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