Although high cholesterol is usually not a problem for women who are in childbearing age, any problem that the mother has, tends to be a problem for the child too. Those mothers who have to deal with high cholesterol problems while in the childbearing process can pass on deleterious conditions and effects to their children. Better safe than sorry: High cholesterol management is essential during pregnancy. Here’s why.
The Signs of High Cholesterol
Many people who are suffering from high cholesterol will feel no different, especially women who are in childbearing age and experiencing symptoms of discomfort from many different sources.
Pregnant women will naturally have a higher cholesterol level than the average person. Comparatively, the average person will have a cholesterol level anywhere between 120 and 190 mg/dl. A pregnant woman who is healthy will have a cholesterol level of over 200 mg/dl. Cholesterol levels will rise during pregnancy, increasing gradually in the second trimester and peaking during the third trimester; however, it should be tested by a doctor if it ever goes over 240 mg/dl.
The Effects of High Cholesterol on the Baby
Part of the reason to be so careful about high cholesterol is that the effects of high cholesterol on the baby have yet to be fully rendered in study. Doctors know simply that high cholesterol is not good for either the mother or the baby. Symptoms that babies have been known to showcase include obesity in early life as well as less lung capacity, which can bring about a whole host of problems. Less air to the brain and the muscles can hinder physical as well as mental development in a baby and also cause secondary social concerns.
The Effects of High Cholesterol on the Mother
The effects of high cholesterol on the mother are much easier to test and are much more well documented. Most of the negative effects of high cholesterol occur when the levels do not return to normal after the pregnancy is over.
The number one way that most mothers return their cholesterol levels to normal after pregnancy is to breastfeed the new baby. If the levels of cholesterol remain abnormally high, however, a new mother may need to indulge in some of the solutions below including dietary changes, exercise programs as well as medications.
How to Self Manage Cholesterol During Pregnancy
There are actions that every mother can take in order to self manage a high cholesterol level. The first of these management techniques is to modify the diet.
Dietary changes that have been known to work include a daily intake of fish oil supplements and increasing whole grains. Mothers-to-be have also experienced success when eating less of foods that are naturally high in cholesterol such as eggs and cheese. Overall, healthy diets that are replete with plenty of fruits and vegetables will help manage the cholesterol level.
Any dietary changes should be discussed with a doctor before implementation: Although high cholesterol is something to be avoided, cholesterol is still an essential part of the development of the baby while the pregnancy is still in term. The cholesterol level should not be allowed to drop too much.
Moderated exercise is another way to self manage the cholesterol level of a pregnant woman; however, all exercise programs should be done with the utmost care under the constant supervision of a licensed doctor and dedicated physical therapist.
Medications to Manage High Cholesterol
High cholesterol can also be managed through medical treatments for mothers who may not have the ability to exercise or change their diets. Atorvastatin, known as Lipitor on the market, is one of the main treatments for high cholesterol in new mothers. Generally well tolerated, there are few side effects that occur with atorvastatin when taken properly under the supervision of a doctor.
Because Lipitor is transferred through breast milk from the mother to the child, the full effect of Lipitor on babies after pregnancy are still being studied. The use of Lipitor during pregnancy should be done only under the strict supervision of a doctor because there are currently no studies that have created a consensus of the effects of the medication on a baby in the womb. In studies with lab rats, implementation of Lipitor resulted in decreased pup survival as well as many other adverse effects for the babies that did survive. These findings do not necessarily correlate with the same effects in humans; however, they do raise important questions about the implementation of Lipitor in a high cholesterol program for a pregnant woman. Most medical professionals currently agree that this type of treatment should be undertaken only as a last resort if the self management techniques of lowering high cholesterol do not work for the soon-to-be mother.