Should You Worry About Your Cholesterol During Pregnancy?

I’m 15 weeks pregnant and was a bit worried about my cholesterol during my first trimester as my cholesterol-friendly diet went completely and utterly down the pan! From about 6 weeks, I went off meat, vegetables and salad, and was also absolutely knackered in the evenings, so stopped cooking proper meals for a while.

Breakfast was ok, as I ate a simple homemade muesli or wholegrain cereal. But lunch would invariably end up being a mayonnaise-rich sandwich from my work canteen with a packet of crisps, which to be honest never filled me up so I’d always end up feeling hungry again an hour later. I had a massive craving for fizzy sweets, so would often eat those in the afternoon, and by dinner time I’d always be tired and ravenous, so mostly ended up eating unhealthy microwave meals.

I also ate quite a lot of chocolate biscuits, buttered toast and ice cream, which aren’t the best choices if you’re watching your cholesterol. I spoke to my midwife about it, and she said I shouldn’t worry about my cholesterol whilst pregnant. But I didn’t really want to undo all the work I’ve done over the last 18 months to get my cholesterol down to a good level, and definitely didn’t want to have to start from scratch all over again.

I did some googling and was surprised to find out that your cholesterol naturally increases during pregnancy (by 25-50%), because it plays an important role in the baby’s brain, limb and cellular development. According to experts, levels will drop back to their normal ranges within four to six weeks post-delivery.

So, because cholesterol increases naturally anyway during pregnancy, experts recommend sticking to a healthy, cholesterol-friendly diet as much as possible to prevent it from sky-rocketing. But I also reckon if you’re craving something ‘unhealthy’ during pregnancy, you should just go ahead and eat it, because often your cravings are your body’s way of saying you’re lacking in those nutrients. I’m not sure that’s necessarily true of chocolate biscuits, but it’s been a great excuse for me to continue enjoying them!

Thankfully though, in the last few weeks my eating habits have begun to return back to normal, so I’m gradually starting to incorporate more and more cholesterol-friendly foods back into my diet. Although the thought of a salmon fillet or whole chicken breast still turns my stomach, I’ve been eating other meats and fish, like extra lean mince, turkey, tuna and cod. I’ve weirdly started a bit of a tuna obsession, but unfortunately you can only eat 4 medium-sized tins a week when pregnant because it contains high levels of mercury. I never ever thought I’d want to eat more than 4 tins of tuna a week, but at the moment it’s what I crave every single day. I know, I’m very strange!

As I seem to get hungry much more frequently between meals I’ve been trying to eat more carbs with my lunch, mostly cholesterol-friendly options like beans, sweet potatoes, and wholemeal bread. If I want a really quick lunch, I’ll go for tuna in a microwaved sweet potato, or baked beans on wholemeal toast. I’ve been snacking a lot on apples, oatcakes with almond butter and the nutty Nakd bars, like ‘Cashew Cookie’ and ‘Peanut Delight’, which are so tasty.

I try to eat a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds every day, as they’re so easy to add to meals, and eat oats for breakfast in muesli or my oaty pancakes. I still eat sweets, chocolate biscuits and ice cream when I feel like it, but I’m trying to get into the habit of always having cholesterol-friendly chocolate treats in the fridge to nibble on when I want something sweet. These are my favourites:-

I’ve been trying to add more calcium to my diet too by drinking more semi-skimmed milk and eating fat free yoghurts, almonds and low fat pasteurised cheese. It’s recommended that pregnant women have 3 cups of dairy products or other calcium-rich foods a day, which is a lot more than I would normally have. If I haven’t had enough by the end of the day, I have a mug of warm milk before bed, which also seems to have the added benefit of helping with my sleep.

So in a nutshell I’m trying to eat cholesterol-friendly stuff most of the time, but I’m also giving into my cravings and not forcing myself to eat super healthy foods with every meal if I don’t feel like it. And anyway, I reckon because I’m not drinking alcohol, I deserve other food-based treats instead! Well, that’s my justification anyway 🙂