Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cholesterol during Pregnancy, part 2

So I did a little research on elevated cholesterol levels during pregnancy, because I was curious to know why my blood cholesterol was elevated when it was checked a month ago. I also wanted to know whether I needed to do anything differently (while pregnant or afterwards). During pregnancy, it appears as though the long and short of it is: eat well and don't worry about it. Stress may actually increase cholesterol. In fact, most doctors don't recommend checking blood cholesterol levels during pregnancy until at least 6 weeks postpartum.

I did not do a thorough search, but I don't think there are any medications recommended for elevated cholesterol during pregnancy. That means my only option for managing elevated cholesterol is diet and exercise. Even still, though, some people believe that cholesterol-restricted diets may be harmful during pregnancy, since the baby needs cholesterol for brain growth (e.g., Dr. Sears).

This study determined that cholesterol increased in the second and third trimesters of most average pregnancies, and that it increased more in subsequent pregnancies. So it even makes sense for me to have high cholesterol levels during my second pregnancy. Interestingly, LDL and triglyceride levels (i.e., "the bad stuff") seem to rise more than HDL. The same study indicates that women experience lower HDL (i.e. "the good stuff") in their subsequent pregnancies. That seems unfortunate, and the authors of the study suggest that it may adversely affect long-term heart health (not a proven hypothesis). But my thought is that if it's a temporary change, it probably won't hurt me in the long run (but that just helps me sleep at night, so I wouldn't blame you if you're disinclined to believe me).

Another study indicates that diabetics aren't any more likely to have an excessive increase in blood cholesterol levels. The only caveat to this is that they may be more likely to start out with high levels from the beginning. The only thing this tells me is that if I didn't have a problem with high cholesterol before getting pregnant, I wouldn't need to screen for it in this or future pregnancies.

The apparent reason for a rise in cholesterol in pregnant women is that cholesterol is necessary for the manufacture of hormones, and plays some part in the development of the baby's brain.

I think my elevated cholesterol level is probably due to pregnancy, rather than because I have an ongoing problem, but I may get them re-checked after the baby is born anyway just to be sure. I read in a couple of places that breastfeeding may help get them back down, and we're big fans of that here.


  1. hi beth!
    soooooo excited i found your blog!!!
    i'm a type 1 (since 2008) and 18 weeks along. someone told me about your blog b/c i'm all for natural birth; i'm so inspired, amazed and comforted by this blog. you can check mine out by just clicking on my name; it should take you right to it since it's also a blogspot blog. :)
    anywho, i wanted to comment really quickly on the cholesterol thing. my doc told me that it's unsensible for doctors to check cholesterol during pregnancy b/c it naturally increases (for mainly the reasons you stated; it's part of the development process for the baby's own needs)---the increase'll only get a woman stressed out! so she just didn't check it.
    anyway, nice to find you and to "meet" you!! look forward to your posts and continue to learn from you two lovely ladies!! keep up the awesome work; your focus is indeed a special niche, but a much-needed one for those of attempting to keep things natural!!

  2. Best wishes for a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and recovery! Glad to "meet" you, too, and let us know if there's anything specific you'd like to hear about.