Pregnancy Problems

High Cholesterol During Pregnancy

How having high cholesterol during pregnancy can affect you and baby — and what you can do about it.

What is high cholesterol during pregnancy?

Also known as hypercholesterolemia, high blood cholesterol means you have too much cholesterol (you guessed it) in your blood. Cholesterol is a type of fat that your body needs to function, but too much can clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

What are the signs of high cholesterol during pregnancy?

There aren’t really any outward signs that your cholesterol levels are higher than normal — you’ll pretty much feel the same as you would with “normal” levels. But if they stay high for a long time, the cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis (a buildup of cholesterol and fat) in your artery walls, which can lead to something more serious, like a heart attack or stroke.

Are there any tests for high cholesterol?

A simple blood test can determine your cholesterol levels.

How common is high cholesterol during pregnancy?

It’s very common for your cholesterol levels to be high when you’re expecting. “Normal” cholesterol levels are usually between 120 and 190 mg/dl, but in pregnancy they can be well over 200 mg/dl.

How did I get high cholesterol?

Your cholesterol levels naturally rise during pregnancy and while nursing, because your body is producing more cholesterol as part of its many hormonal changes.

How will my high cholesterol affect my baby?

It probably won’t. However, if your total cholesterol levels go too high (over 240) your doctor may want to do additional tests or recheck your levels after your baby is born, to make sure you’re not at risk for scary problems (see next page for treatments and prevention).

What’s the best way to treat high cholesterol during pregnancy

During pregnancy your doctor probably won’t prescribe medication to lower your cholesterol, but if your stay high post-baby, you may be given medication and be told to follow a heart-smart diet (low in saturated fat, high in fiber and including plenty of fruits and vegetables).

What can I do to prevent high cholesterol?

A healthy pregnancy will help keep your cholesterol levels in check: Eat balanced meals with plenty of fruits and veggies, avoid fried and high-fat foods, and exercise if your doctor gives you the okay.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have high cholesterol?

“[During pregnancy] I stopped eating egg and cheese (almost completely). I started to eat oatmeal a few times a week and took fish oil. My cholesterol dropped to 200 without medications.”

“Before getting pregnant, I took fish oil daily, which can help. Since my prenatals have DHA, I stopped taking fish oil, since they have similar ingredients. I think diets high in whole grains are good as well.”

“I have high cholesterol. I was on Simvastatin, and my doctor told me that if I ever planned on becoming pregnant to quit taking it and then let them know. I actually quit taking it when we started TTC. The doctor’s office told me to just call them back after I’m done breastfeeding to get a new prescription.”

Are there any other resources for high cholesterol?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Plus, more from The Bump:

Healthy Foods for Busy Moms-to-Be

What blood tests do I need during pregnancy?

Checklist: Nutrition During Pregnancy

By Christian Hoffman, MD, medical director and chair of the department of obstetrics/gynecology at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton in Hamilton, New Jersey