We have all witnessed strange food cravings during pregnancy, usually joked about as being pickles and ice cream. Yet there are far more serious food cravings that exist and they can cause extreme health problems.
A condition known as pica can generate cravings for nonfood items. These items include cornstarch, baking powder, ice, dirt, clay and baking soda. This is actually a common condition during pregnancy.
Recently it was reported that a pregnant woman was consuming a one pound box of baking soda every day. This occurred during and after her pregnancy. She developed serious heart and muscle conditions as the result of this condition.
After being hospitalized, it took the medical staff a week to diagnose the cause of her life-threatening illness. It was caused by pica.
The mother-to-be entered the emergency room during her 37th week of pregnancy. She complained about dizziness and weakness. She was admitted with a diagnosis of an irregular heartbeat. She also experienced muscle weakness in her legs. Her potassium levels were extremely low. Potassium is an electrolyte that is critical for the proper functioning of muscle and nerve cells. The heart is, of course, the most critical muscle in the body.
Low potassium explained the weakness, as well as the irregular heartbeat. But the doctors needed to find the cause of the low potassium levels. Diet was immediately thought of since overdoing caffeine can lead to weakness.
The attending physician was familiar with pica but the patient did not admit to any unusual cravings or dietary practices.
After admission, the patient developed a rapid heartbeat and was sent to the intensive care unit. They began treating her with fluids and electrolytes.
Lab tests found that she had extreme levels of creatine kinase in her blood. This enzyme signals rhabdomyolysis. This condition is the breakdown of muscle fiber. It can lead to kidney harm.
The echocardiogram showed that the left ventricle of her heart was dilated. This indicates a condition known as peripartum cardiomyopathy. Basically, the heart is getting so weak that it cannot pump blood efficiently. It is diagnosed in one out of every 1,300 to 5,000 live births. It is usually diagnosed during the last month of pregnancy.
Because of these conditions, the doctors treated the woman with a blood transfusion and heart medications. They induced labor and on the fifth day in the hospital, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy weighing in at 5 pounds, 4 ounces.
While the doctors were able to improve the creatine kinase levels, her potassium levels would not improve. They remained too low.
The hospital staff kept asking her about her diet and any other habits. Two days after giving birth she finally admitted to her use of baking soda. She had been consuming it for years as a cure for hiccups. She had even had it snuck into the hospital.
After being told to stop the baking soda eating, she was closely monitored to make sure she did not consume any while in the hospital. The results were an increase in potassium levels. After they returned to normal, she was discharged.
She was referred to a cardiologist. Three months after starting her visits, an echocardiogram showed that she had developed a mild cardiomyopathy.
Baking soda is primarily sodium bicarbonate. It is chemically defined as an amphoteric. Bases neutralize acids. Amphoterics neutralize both bases and acids. This is why it is found in most antacids. It can also be used to cover scalded parts of the body. It is also used to treat an aspirin overdose.
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