Last Updated on by Eat Better Move More

Can Pregnancy Cause High Cholesterol?

Pregnancy can be a magical moment for a woman, nonetheless, developing another human being is not an easy task. A normal pregnancy lasts for around 40 weeks, and during this time, a woman can see many changes in her body, the most remarkable one is the belly growing as the baby develops, however, this is not the only thing that changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy.

In order for the baby to grow and develop a woman’s body undergoes many changes including hormonal, metabolic, cardiovascular, respiratory, behavioral, and even psychological. All of these changes are completely normal.

For instance, during pregnancy, the body requires an increase in heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing. For this reason, there is no need to be afraid if your blood test results are completely different than they used to be.

However, what happens with cholesterol during this magical time? Can pregnancy increase cholesterol levels? Keep on reading to discover how pregnancy can affect your cholesterol levels.  

Can Pregnancy Cause High Cholesterol

Cholesterol and pregnancy

As the baby grows and develops there is a natural increase in the flow of nutrients that go to the placenta in order to support the baby, thus it is normal that levels of lipid plasma blood such as cholesterol and triglycerides increase.

This extra cholesterol is extremely important for the development of the baby as cholesterol is needed for the production of sex hormones such as testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen as well as helping in brain development.

Having that said, it is crucial to continually take measurements of cholesterol levels during pregnancy, as it is one of the many indicators that everything is going normal and expected.

In addition, it is worth noting that women with a high level of cholesterol before pregnancy will see a more pronounced increase in such level, for this reason, it is important to check a woman’s overall health state before she gets pregnant in order to prevent pregnancy risks.  

So, what is the expected cholesterol level during pregnancy? Cholesterol level tends to increase between 25% and 50% during pregnancy according to doctors. Generally, cholesterol level rises during the second trimester of pregnancy, around week 16, with a peak during the third semester.

For you to have an idea, below is a chart of the normal fractions for lipid blood in a non-pregnant adult.

Cholesterol Fraction Desired Range
LDL Less than 100 mg/dL
HDL 40 mg/dL and higher (the higher, the better)
VLDL Between 2 and 30 mg/dL
Total Cholesterol Less than 200 mg/dL
Triglycerides Below 150 mg/dL

 

So, nothing to be afraid if you are pregnant and your cholesterol goes up to 300 mg/dL, that is completely normal and expected during pregnancy. In addition, most cardiologists agree that HDL (good cholesterol) should be greater than 60 mg/dL and LDL (bad cholesterol) less than 100 mg/dL in a pregnant woman.

Symptoms of High Cholesterol During Pregnancy

As having high levels of blood cholesterol in pregnancy is normal and expected, women will not suffer any different signs. In this matter, they will feel like any other person with normal cholesterol levels, as this excess of cholesterol level will be used for the baby to growth.

What Cholesterol Medicine is Safe During Pregnancy

The truth is that generally doctors don’t treat high cholesterol levels during pregnancy, as having high levels is completely normal. The only exception for this rule is when there is a risk for cardiovascular disease, in this case, high cholesterol levels should be treated.

Having an excessively high cholesterol level during pregnancy can lead to some risks to the woman as well as to the baby.

For example, studies have shown that abnormally high levels of cholesterol can cause hypertension and stroke. Besides, children whose mothers suffered from high cholesterol during pregnancy are 5 times more likely to suffer from high cholesterol when adults.

For women that have a seriously elevated cholesterol level, there are some medications such as bile acid sequestrants that can be prescribed during pregnancy, as they don’t have the capacity to cross the placenta. However, it is important to mention that any medication during pregnancy should only be consumed under a doctor’s approval.

If you are concerned about your cholesterol level during pregnancy, the best tip would be adhering to a balanced diet, with lots of fruits, vegetables, avoiding saturated fats; maintaining an exercise routine according to your pregnancy period and doctor’s prescription.

Can High Cholesterol Cause Miscarriage?

As you have read having high than normal level of cholesterol is completely normal in a healthy pregnancy.

Miscarriages can happen in any pregnancy and having a high level of cholesterol will not affect your chances to have a miscarriage, neither will it increase the chance for the baby to be born with a birth defect.    

How Long Does Cholesterol Stay Elevated After Pregnancy?

After giving birth, it is normal to still have an elevated cholesterol level for more than one month, as the body needs some time to get back to its normal levels. For this reason, it is recommended to take a blood test after at least 7 weeks after giving birth, for natural births. If the woman had a cesarean, it is recommended to wait for at least 12 weeks, as the body will need cholesterol and some extra time to repair tissues.  

Can Pregnancy Cause High Cholesterol – Conclusion

Pregnancy implies a lot of changes in a woman’s body. Developing and growing a baby will require a lot of extra nutrients and substances that will travel from the bloodstream to the placenta in order to supply the growing baby.

Now, what about cholesterol, can pregnancy cause high cholesterol? Yes, cholesterol will be needed in order to synthesize sex hormones for the baby, as well as to develop the neurological system.

Having that said, it is completely normal and expected for a woman to have an elevated cholesterol level during pregnancy, especially after the second trimester. However, too elevated levels of cholesterol, or high level before pregnancy, can lead to risks for both the woman and the baby.

Talk to your doctor if you are concerned that your cholesterol level is too high to check for available treatments, as during pregnancy extra caution should be exercised when it comes to taking medication.

In addition, try to follow a healthy diet with great amounts of fruits and vegetables and try to exercise regularly if you have your doctor’s okay for that.

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