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Home > Learn > Nutrition > >Electrolytes During Pregnancy: What to Know

Electrolytes During Pregnancy: What to Know

Apr 30, 23 7 min

Wondering if electrolytes are safe to consume while pregnant? Read on to learn the benefits of electrolytes during pregnancy and the importance of hydration.

By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

Electrolytes are vital minerals and ions that play an important role in hydration and normal bodily functions. Many of the minerals that make up electrolytes also have beneficial effects on maternal and fetal health. Let’s talk about why electrolytes are important and how to ensure you’re getting enough electrolytes during pregnancy. 

Why electrolytes are important 

Maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated are extremely important during pregnancy. Electrolytes play a big role in hydration and basic bodily functions, so maintaining balanced electrolytes is also an important part of a healthy pregnancy. [1] If you need a refresher, electrolytes are minerals like magnesium, sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, etc. that have been dissolved in water. Electrolytes have electrical charges and help with various chemical reactions in the body. [2] This includes digestion, hydration, fluid balance, muscle contraction and relaxation (including your heart beat), and more. 

We take in electrolytes through our diet and expel them through urine and sweat. If electrolytes are imbalanced there can be many negative health effects, including abnormal heart rate, dizziness, confusion, and muscle cramps or breakdown.[2-3]

Electrolytes and pregnancy

Pregnancy requires a lot from your body, including additional fluids. The importance of hydration during pregnancy is largely focused on improving fetal outcomes, controlling pregnancy symptoms, decreasing risky complications, and more. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends pregnant individuals drink anywhere from eight to twelve cups of water a day to keep up with the increased fluid volume. [4] So how do electrolytes factor in? In order for cells and organs to be properly hydrated and move nutrients where they need to go, chemical reactions have to happen. Electrolytes are what help our body with these chemical reactions and are necessary for adequate hydration. [2] 

Specific electrolyte minerals have also been shown to have a positive impact on pregnancy and maternal health. More data is needed, but some research does suggest that magnesium supplementation may help prevent postpartum depression and anxiety. [5-6] Other studies have also found that some pregnancy complications such as hypertension and preeclampsia may be reduced by supplementing with magnesium, potassium, and calcium. [7] 

Electrolytes and fetal development

Amniotic fluid is about 98% water and electrolytes, so ensuring adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals is key for both maternal health and fetal development. [8] Research shows that magnesium supports bone structure development and may help reduce the risk of low birth weight and stillbirth. [9] Data also shows that calcium intake may help prevent premature birth, intrauterine growth restriction, and low birth weight. [10] The bottom line is that electrolytes and other vitamins and minerals are necessary for a healthy pregnancy and fetal development. 

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What impacts electrolyte levels?

Water intake, medical conditions, and medications can all impact your electrolyte balance.

Water intake and physical activity

Dehydration occurs when you don’t have enough water

We lose electrolytes through urine, sweat, and other bodily fluids, and we take in electrolytes through food and drink. Pregnancy does put you at a higher risk for dehydration or imbalanced electrolytes due to potential morning sickness, hormonal changes, and increased breathing rate. [1, 11] This is also the case for anyone exerting a lot of energy and sweating a lot, or expelling bodily fluids due to illness. Similarly, drinking too much water can cause an imbalance as well. Want to learn more about electrolytes? Find out if electrolytes give you energy. 

Conditions and medications

There are various medical conditions and medications that can have an impact on hydration and electrolyte levels. Some potential conditions include cardiovascular disease, eating disorders, kidney disease, cancer, and liver disease. [12] Some medications that can impact electrolyte levels include antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, steroids, diuretics, and laxatives. [12] 

Supporting electrolyte balance during pregnancy

Ensuring adequate electrolyte levels during pregnancy is fairly easy to do. Luckily, a balanced diet and comprehensive prenatal vitamin will include many of the vital nutrients your body needs to create electrolytes.

High electrolyte foods

Prioritizing foods that have high vitamin and mineral content is a great way to increase your electrolyte levels during pregnancy. Some options for high electrolyte foods include [13-17]:

  • Legumes (potassium, magnesium, phosphorus)
  • Green leafy vegetables (magnesium, phosphorus)
  • Potatoes (potassium)
  • Poultry (potassium, phosphorus)
  • Fish (potassium, phosphorus)
  • Milk (potassium, calcium, phosphorus)
  • Yogurt (potassium, calcium, phosphorus)
  • Nuts (potassium, magnesium)
  • Celery (sodium, chloride)
  • Lettuce (sodium, chloride)
  • Olives (sodium, chloride)

Beverages

Most water already contains some electrolytes (with the exception of distilled, purified water), and there are plenty of other hydrating drinks available that aren’t water if you ever need to switch it up. Coconut water, electrolyte drinks, herbal teas, natural fruit juices, and more can be great sources of electrolytes and vitamins. Natalist has multiple pregnancy-safe drink mixes available that can help with hydration, relaxation, energy, and nausea relief. 

Multivitamins

Most comprehensive prenatal vitamins will contain a large amount of vital vitamins and minerals needed for pregnancy and fetal development. These multivitamins can also help with electrolyte balance. Speak to your healthcare provider about your current vitamin routine to ensure you’re getting all the necessary nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy. 

Key takeaways

  • Electrolytes have electrical charges and help with various chemical reactions in the body such as digestion, hydration, fluid balance, muscle contraction and relaxation (including your heart beat), and more. 
  • Electrolytes are needed for proper hydration and can be consumed through food, drink, and vitamins.
  • Supplementing with some electrolytes has been shown to prevent postpartum depression and anxiety, hypertension, and preeclampsia, but more research is needed.
  • Amniotic fluid is about 98% water and electrolytes.
  • Water intake, medical conditions, and medications can all impact your electrolyte balance.
  • Some high-electrolyte foods include legumes, nuts and seeds, poultry, dairy products, vegetables, and fish. 
  • Electrolyte drinks and coconut water are two great sources of electrolytes. 
  • Taking a prenatal multivitamin is another way to get in many of the vital nutrients required for pregnancy and electrolyte balance. 

 

References:

  1. Ahmed A. Fetomaternal Acid-Base Balance and Electrolytes during Pregnancy. Indian J Crit Care Med. 2021;25(Suppl 3):S193-S199. doi:10.5005/jp-journals-10071-24030
  2. Shrimanker I, Bhattarai S. Electrolytes. [Updated 2022 Jul 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541123/
  3. Electrolytes. Cleveland Clinic. Last reviewed 09/2021. URL
  4. How much water should I drink during pregnancy? ACOG. Reviewed October 2020. URL
  5. Derom ML, Sayón-Orea C, Martínez-Ortega JM, Martínez-González MA. Magnesium and depression: a systematic review. Nutr Neurosci. 2013;16(5):191-206. doi:10.1179/1476830512Y.0000000044
  6. Jacka FN, Overland S, Stewart R, Tell GS, Bjelland I, Mykletun A. Association between magnesium intake and depression and anxiety in community-dwelling adults: the Hordaland Health Study. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2009;43(1):45-52. doi:10.1080/00048670802534408
  7. Frederick IO, Williams MA, Dashow E, Kestin M, Zhang C, Leisenring WM. Dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium and calcium in relation to the risk of preeclampsia. J Reprod Med. 2005;50(5):332-344.
  8. Fitzsimmons ED, Bajaj T. Embryology, Amniotic Fluid. [Updated 2022 Jul 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541089/
  9. Zarean E, Tarjan A. Effect of Magnesium Supplement on Pregnancy Outcomes: A Randomized Control Trial. Adv Biomed Res. 2017;6:109. Published 2017 Aug 31. doi:10.4103/2277-9175.213879
  10. Farias PM, Marcelino G, Santana LF, et al. Minerals in Pregnancy and Their Impact on Child Growth and Development. Molecules. 2020;25(23):5630. Published 2020 Nov 30. doi:10.3390/molecules25235630
  11. Zhang N, Zhang F, Chen S, et al. Associations between hydration state and pregnancy complications, maternal-infant outcomes: protocol of a prospective observational cohort study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2020;20(1):82. Published 2020 Feb 7. doi:10.1186/s12884-020-2765-x
  12. Electrolyte Imbalance. Cleveland Clinic. Last reviewed 08/13/2022. URL
  13. Potassium- Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Updated June 2, 2022. URL
  14. Magnesium- Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Updated June 2, 2022. URL
  15. Calcium- Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Updated October 6, 2022. URL
  16. Chloride in the diet. MedlinePlus [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); [updated Jun 24]. URL
  17. Phosphorus- Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Updated March 26, 2021. URL

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