Cholesterol rise during pregnancy

Last week, I went to see my GP doctor for my usual routine annual. We talked about health, COVID-19, life, and my pregnancy. And as per usual, I had my lipid panel done with an overnight fast, which is routine for these visits.

However, what I wasn’t expecting were the results I’d get a week later, which totally shocked me. Every year I’ve had my cholesterol levels checked, I’ve always been in a healthy range. My healthy cholesterol is high (which is good), and my “bad” cholesterol had been low. I’d never even reached a total cholesterol level even close to 200 (over 200 is considered undesirable/bad). But when my doctor emailed me with my results today, I was beyond shocked and grossed out. Last year, my HDL (good) cholesterol was 73, and my LDL (bad) was 71. She’s always been impressed by how all my labs have been each year and has applauded me (thankfully, I didn’t inherit my dad’s terrible cholesterol genes, which tend to pass down on the men’s side but luckily not the women’s side). But this year, though she seemed happy about my results, my initial reaction out loud was “what the actual FUCK?” This year, the good cholesterol was 84, which is considered very good. But the bad cholesterol I balked at – 126. ONE HUNDRED TWENTY SIX WHAT? I immediately looked up last year’s results to compare, and to see the bad jump up by this much had zero explanation. Did I need to go.. VEGAN? The only other explanation for this could be my pregnancy. Does pregnancy cause one’s cholesterol to increase?

Apparently, it does. I asked her this, and at the same time also did a quick Google search. The rationale is for several reasons: cholesterol level tends to increase as your weight goes up, and with a healthy pregnancy, weight has to increase to accommodate your growing baby, her “house,” and the extra fat stores your body needs to produce to optimally nourish your tiny growing human. Your increasing cholesterol also serves to provide additional nutrients needed for a growing fetus overall, even for women who have normal cholesterol levels pre-pregnancy. Cholesterol level tends to peak during the third trimester, which is what I’m currently at, and then decline once the baby is born and once you lose the extra baby weight. My doctor responded immediately and said that she had zero concerns about my increase and that in fact, this was very healthy considering the baseline I started at pre-pregnancy, which was “phenomenal” in her own words.

The numbers still freaked me out, though. My triglyceride level also went up like crazy, which she said is also normal during pregnancy. To someone who is generally very aware of diet, nutrition, and exercise, this was really alarming, but at least I know this will be temporarily. Or well, I hope it will be. It better be…

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