Pregnant women need to maintain a healthy weight and eat a variety of foods, including high fiber, low-fat foods. They should avoid salt and sweets and should limit caffeine. On the other hand, women need to be cautious of high-fat foods and avoid oils and nuts.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance, a component of fat, that is made in the body. It is necessary for the transport of many important molecules, such as hormones and insulin, across cell membranes. The liver performs the production of cholesterol, but its production is controlled. It also manufactures cholesterol in some parts of the body, such as the ovaries. Thus, there are two types of cells that produce cholesterol: those that produce it in the liver and those that produce it in other parts of the body.
Without cholesterol there is no hair and people would look like bald humans. There are three types of cholesterol:
- Saturated Fat
- Mono-unsaturated Fat
Saturated fat occurs in butter, coconut oil, palm oil, and animal fat. The body needs it to provide energy, but its use can be very harmful to health. There is good evidence that the consumption of saturated fat can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and reduce HDL (good) cholesterol levels, contributing to cardiovascular disease.
The connection between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease is so profound that efforts have been made to lower cholesterol to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have not been able to show any link between lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, there may be an increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Despite these findings, lowering cholesterol levels still remains the dominant strategy for reducing cardiovascular disease risk. A meta-analysis of 53 randomised controlled trials (the gold standard for scientific evidence) showed that cholesterol lowering did reduce risk of cardiovascular events in adults.
Mono-unsaturated fat is the main type of fat that people eat. It is derived from plants and can be divided into two broad categories: oleic acid and polyunsaturated fats. In the body, polyunsaturated fats are taken up by cells to form vital nutrients.
Fats that are made in the body and are free of cholesterol are known as “good fats” and are important to good health. Eating a balanced diet of healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) can lead to a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease and mortality.
Trans-fat is the commonly consumed type of fat that is industrially produced. It is a type of saturated fat and has no nutritional value. The consumption of trans-fat is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Butter, margarine, and solid vegetable shortening have been found to contain 0.5 per cent to 2 per cent trans-fat. Free trans-fat is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, whereas trans-fat in foods is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease.
A review of the available scientific evidence by the WHO concluded that in addition to poor health effects, trans-fat is also inefficient because it increases the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
The side effects of cholesterol on pregnant women
High cholesterol can cause sudden cardiac death, small-fiber heart disease, and premature delivery, but heart disease also causes many birth defects, so it’s important to know if your cholesterol is too high before you’re pregnant.
If you have high cholesterol even before pregnancy, this might not have the best affects on your baby. However, if you have a history of heart disease, your doctor may take this into account in your care.
Some tips to lower cholesterol are a low fat diet, a healthy dose of exercise, and stress management. Look for an elimination diet, in which you make a point to eliminate all kinds of foods that could cause high cholesterol.
This might include coffee, canned tomatoes, fried foods, meat, and dairy products. Most people who have high cholesterol do not know it. It is a silent killer. If you find that you are having some problems with your cholesterol levels, make sure you do some additional research and talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
Whatever you do, make sure to keep your cholesterol in check, to have healthy babies.
Effect of cholesterol on diabetes
It is also very important to monitor the level of cholesterol in the blood during pregnancy and advise the mother to avoid excessively fatty foods.
There is evidence that women with high cholesterol levels may be more likely to experience gestational diabetes and fetal growth restriction than women with normal cholesterol levels.
How is cholesterol deposited in your body?
Cholesterol in the body goes into cells, organs, and other body tissues and protects them. Some cholesterol is not very well-protected and this is when cholesterol deposits start to show. The best way to know if you have this or not is to have your levels measured in the blood.
The cholesterol in your blood comes from two sources – dietary cholesterol (from animal products such as eggs and beef and dairy, especially cheese) and cholesterol in your bile from ingesting cholesterol from food that has been broken down in your gut, such as turkey and chicken.
Cholesterol in your blood must be at a minimum cholesterol content of 160 mg per 100 ml of blood, otherwise you will have a heart attack or have a stroke.
How many types of cholesterol are there?
Two main types of cholesterol are found in the body – LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol.
Good cholesterol is found in the blood and it helps the heart to function properly. Your body uses this cholesterol to build new blood vessels, to deliver nutrients to the heart and brain, to transport oxygen to other parts of the body, and to repair tissue that has been damaged.
Bad cholesterol is also referred to as cholesterol from the liver – is unhealthy, it is a sign that your body cannot easily process fats, fats, and cholesterol. The liver does not break down the fats as it should. This cholesterol is then deposited in your blood, including the blood vessels of your heart.
What happens if your HDL levels are low?
Your HDL levels are a sign of good cholesterol. The HDL cholesterol will help the heart by clogging up the arteries and protecting the heart from damage and heart attacks.
The reason why HDL is a good indicator of a healthy heart is that HDL is often referred to as the ‘good’ cholesterol.
Unfortunately, HDL levels can decline with age.
What is the importance of HDL levels?
The HDL levels of a person can determine how well the heart function, as a result, the lower the HDL level, the more likely the heart will stop functioning.
How does the body rely on cholesterol?
The body relies on cholesterol to make vitamins, hormones, and antibodies and it is constantly trying to correct the imbalance between the amount of cholesterol it makes and the amount that it needs.
Low levels of omega-3’s are a problem in our society because they are the reason for inflammation. They help to create good blood cells and combat inflammation. When you don’t get enough omega-3s your body becomes more susceptible to inflammation.
The risk of heart disease increases by 11 percent when the levels of omega-3’s are low. Omega-3’s are needed for good immune function. Too much inflammation can damage the intestines, the lining of the brain, stomach, and colon, and even affect other internal organs. For this reason, anti-inflammatory treatments are important.
Why cholesterol goes up during pregnancy?
The levels of cholesterol, and triglycerides, naturally increase during pregnancy.
Health risks are increased with the accumulation of cholesterol and triglycerides, both of which are naturally present in the blood after conception.
During pregnancy, the body produces a potent estrogen called estradiol.
Estrogen also plays an important role in maintaining a normal healthy pregnancy.
The elevated estrogen levels during pregnancy can be followed for a longer period of time after giving birth if breastfeeding is continued.
In addition, there are other hormones, like insulin and leptin, that can play a role in the cause of high cholesterol and triglycerides in women.
Women who continue to breastfeed after they stop taking estrogens have the same risk for an increased risk of high cholesterol as women who were never breastfed.
Other risk factors that increase the risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides in mothers are inflammation, particularly in the intestines and arteries.
Inflammation in these areas is known to increase the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
Another factor is hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
One study found that women who took HRT for more than two years were three times more likely to have high cholesterol and triglycerides in their blood than those who did not take HRT.
HRT also increases the risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood of women who do not breastfeed.
Therefore, HRT and breastfeeding should be avoided in women who have high blood cholesterol and triglycerides or who do not want to breastfeed.
The part of the diet that most contributes to elevated blood cholesterol and triglycerides in both breastfeeding and nonbreastfeeding women is the simple carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates increase cholesterol and triglycerides.
The simple carbohydrates in the diet are high in refined sugar and white flour.
These carbohydrates are in a form that can be easily converted into blood glucose and stored as glycogen for energy.
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is one example of a high-fructose carbohydrate that is highly refined.
Although HFCS is often used in foods such as soda, it is a harmful food additive because of the increase in its lipid peroxidation level and fructose content compared to glucose.
Glucose is considered a safe food additive.
However, HFCS, or another sugar, is considered an unhealthy food additive.
These increased cholesterol levels are not caused by increased consumption of cholesterol-containing foods, which was the traditional explanation for pregnancy-associated increased cholesterol levels. Instead, high serum cholesterol levels have been associated with an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease in adults.
Besides, increased cholesterol levels have been associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in childhood and adulthood in adults. Also, these associations may be even stronger for women than for men, as they are more likely to have more offspring.
How does cholesterol at high levels affect pregnant women?
Affect on heart
When it comes to the effects of high cholesterol in pregnant women, there is very little evidence that there will be any effect on pregnancy outcome.
Low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides can also accelerate the development of coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Pregnant woman’s risk of getting heart disease will increase if she has high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol levels. It is important to understand that every woman is different and different foods will cause different symptoms.
Affects of diabetes on cholesterol
Some people feel that a diabetes diet will drive down their cholesterol levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, these types of diets don’t lower cholesterol levels. Instead, they increase inflammation and undermine pancreatic health, just like a diabetes diet.
Many studies have examined whether higher rates of diabetes might increase the risk of pregnant women having an adverse pregnancy outcome.
Some studies have focused on its effect on high cholesterol levels, while other studies have focused on its effect on blood pressure. Studies have found no difference in risks between pregnant women with diabetes and those who don’t have diabetes.
Obesity effects on cholesterol levels
Every woman is at risk for developing an obesity during her pregnancy, but the risk increases for each additional pound that she puts on. Obesity increases the cholesterol levels and puts you at risk. As weight increases LDL cholesterol and triglycerides also increase.
There is evidence that those who are overweight or obese are predisposed to develop diabetes because they have altered the pathways for glucose transport in the liver.
Obesity also increases total adipose tissue deposition in the femoral neck and brain, as well as increases visceral fat deposition in the abdominal region. These visceral fat changes are believed to lead to the changes in heart rate and blood pressure.
Effect of obesity on the fetus
Obesity is associated with increased risk of almost all pregnancy complications.
Women who are obese or overweight are more likely to have a premature birth, a low-birth weight baby, a breech presentation, problems with their placenta, and to have a cesarean section.
Women who are obese or overweight also have a higher incidence of certain adverse outcomes in the newborn period, such as low birth weight.
Obese women are also more likely to develop gestational diabetes and preeclampsia than women who are not obese.
However, there is a correlation between obesity and adverse maternal and perinatal outcomes, but the increase in risk of all adverse outcomes is greatest with a BMI above 30.
Overview about Women with obesity
Women with obesity who experience spontaneous labor are more likely to have a low birth weight child, and the risk of a cesarean section for both full term and premature babies is increased in these cases.
Women who experience labor induction or elective caesarean section while being obese are also more likely to have low birth weight children, and the risk of a cesarean section for all low birth weight babies is also increased.
A child who is born to a woman with a BMI over 30 has a 10% higher risk of being born prematurely, and a 5% higher risk of being born with a low birth weight.
Substitute foods are made with protein for fats. Protein-rich foods like beans, eggs, nuts and legumes, and fruits and vegetables like strawberries, bananas, avocados, and pumpkin seeds are extremely important. Protein is rich in amino acids, which are our body’s building blocks.
Decrease sugar content in the diet
For better cholesterol control, aim to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
If you reduce your intake of sugary drinks in addition to sugar-sweetened drinks, you will also likely get better control of your blood pressure. It’s like winning a battle between blood pressure and sugar intake.
Get enough iodine
Too much iodine is linked to a variety of health problems, including cancers, kidney problems, and thyroid problems. It can also negatively affect the hair and skin. The latest research shows that iodine levels in the blood have a strong impact on the rate of an individual’s diabetes.
Excess iodine intake can even negatively impact a person’s chance of heart disease and heart attack. Speaking of which, research also suggests that adding more iodine to the diet in moderation can have benefits in keeping blood glucose levels in check.
Eat more fiber to reduce cholesterol levels. Increase the amounts of fiber and potassium in your diet
They are high in unsaturated fat and can help your blood lipid profile. Nuts are high in unsaturated fat and can help your blood lipid profile. Keep your coffee, tea, energy drinks, and other sources of caffeine away from you.
Reduced consumption of alcohol
- Reduced intake of processed food
Try Lowering your consumption of carbohydrates and added sugars and do more physical activities.
Making healthy diet choices will consequently help the health of the mother and the baby as well. Any health complication during pregnancy if not treated properly can be harmful. Seek a doctor if cholesterol levels in your body are high during pregnancy.