The Life-Threatening Dangers of Drinking Salt Water While Pregnant

Consuming salt water during pregnancy may seem harmless, but it poses serious health risks that all expecting mothers should understand. Drinking salt water can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, high blood pressure, and even miscarriage.

While an occasional small amount is unlikely to be harmful, regularly ingesting salt water is very dangerous for both mother and baby. This article will examine why it’s critical to avoid salt water when you’re pregnant.

Overview of the Risks

Salt is sodium chloride, which when consumed in moderation is essential for bodily functions like fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction. However, ingesting high concentrations of salt water overrides the kidneys’ ability to excrete excess sodium. This can rapidly lead to a dangerous electrolyte imbalance called hyponatremia, where sodium levels in the blood become abnormally low.

Drinking salt water also causes the body to excrete more water, resulting in dehydration as more fluid exits the body. Dehydration stresses all the organs and makes blood pressure rise. Dangerously high blood pressure in pregnancy is called preeclampsia, which can be fatal if untreated.

Additionally, the high salt concentration is extremely toxic to the developing fetus. Significant electrolyte disturbances and dehydration from drinking salt water can potentially trigger miscarriage or complications. For the health of both mother and baby, salt water should always be avoided.

Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalances

One of the biggest concerns with ingesting salt water is that it causes dehydration and electrolyte disturbances. Drinking high-salt fluids prompts the kidneys to excrete more water to dilute the excess sodium. This leads to water loss through increased urination.

Vomiting and diarrhea after drinking salt water will also contribute to dehydration. When the body loses more fluid than it’s taking in, dehydration occurs. Symptoms include extreme thirst, headache, dizziness, and dark urine.

In addition to water loss, consuming salt water disrupts the body’s normal balance of electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chloride. Hyponatremia develops when sodium levels get too low relative to body water. This condition causes cells to swell as water shifts into the cells to balance the sodium.

Symptoms of hyponatremia include nausea, muscle cramps, disorientation, and fatigue. In severe cases, hyponatremia can lead to seizures, coma, and death if not corrected. Drinking salt water makes hyponatremia worse by further lowering sodium levels through fluid loss.

Increased Blood Pressure and Preeclampsia

Consuming excess sodium from salt water also strains the cardiovascular system. Sodium causes water retention, which increases blood volume and pressure on vessel walls. High blood pressure during pregnancy can develop into a condition called preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation and involves high blood pressure plus damage to other organs like the kidneys or liver. Symptoms include headaches, swelling in the face and hands, stomach pain, nausea, and blurred vision.

If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious, even fatal complications for both the mother and baby. The only cure is delivery of the baby. Women with preeclampsia are also more likely to have poor growth of the fetus and premature delivery.

Since high sodium intake raises blood pressure, drinking salt water during pregnancy will only increase the risk of developing preeclampsia and its dangers. Avoiding excess salt is critical.

Potential For Miscarriage and Complications

The high salt concentration in salt water is extremely toxic to the developing fetus. Significant electrolyte imbalances and dehydration from drinking salt water can potentially trigger miscarriage early in pregnancy.

Later in pregnancy, the risks are higher for preterm labor and delivery if the mother develops preeclampsia or other complications from ingesting salt water. Prematurity comes with many long-term health concerns for the infant like respiratory problems, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays.

Even if miscarriage or early delivery doesn’t occur after drinking salt water, the resulting dehydration and electrolyte disturbances can impact the fetus. Poor placental blood flow and oxygen delivery to the baby may restrict growth and organ development.

There are many unnecessary risks of miscarriage, preterm birth, and fetal growth issues when salt water is consumed regularly in pregnancy. It’s critical to avoid ingesting it.

Dangers of Direct Salt Consumption

Drinking salt water is hazardous on its own, but directly consuming table salt or salt crystals is especially dangerous. The salt concentration is much higher than in seawater, containing around 40% sodium chloride.

This extremely high salt content can immediately overwhelm the body’s buffers and electrolyte balance. Consuming just one teaspoon of salt could cause vomiting, seizures, coma or even death if there is delayed medical treatment.

Pregnant women have lower sodium reserves and are at higher risk of complications from salt overdose. Consuming table salt directly should be avoided at all costs given the likelihood of toxicity reactions.

Recommendations for Pregnant Women

To maintain a healthy pregnancy, here are some recommendations around salt and salt water consumption:

  • Avoid drinking salt water, including seawater. Even small amounts could potentially cause harm.

  • Maintain a balanced sodium intake of around 1,500 - 2,300 mg per day from food sources. Avoid adding extra table salt.

  • Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of normal water. Aim for 10-12 cups daily or more if exercising.

  • Be aware of hidden sodium in packaged or canned foods and restaurant meals. Focus on fresh, whole foods.

  • Consult your doctor about an appropriate diet and salt intake for your pregnancy. Ask about fluid needs if experiencing nausea/vomiting.

  • Seek immediate medical help if you accidentally ingest a significant amount of salt or salt water and experience any concerning symptoms.

Avoiding salt water but consuming an adequate intake of sodium from natural sources is key. Work closely with your healthcare provider to ensure the ideal dietary balance.

Signs of Trouble After Ingesting Salt Water

If you accidentally consume too much salt water, be on the lookout for any concerning symptoms that indicate salt toxicity or dehydration:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea which can worsen dehydration

  • Extreme thirst and headache

  • Dizziness, confusion, blurred vision

  • Weakness, cramping or twitching muscles

  • Rapid heart rate and breathing

  • Seizures

  • Low blood pressure

  • Swelling in the tissues around the eyes or limbs

If any signs of salt poisoning appear after drinking salt water, seek emergency medical care right away. The sooner treatment begins, the better the outcome.

Intravenous fluids will be given to restore hydration and sodium balance. Medications may be used to reduce brain swelling. Dialysis can filter excess salt if kidney function is impaired. With rapid treatment, the prognosis is good.


Drinking salt water regularly during pregnancy poses major health risks including dehydration, electrolyte disturbances, toxicity, and increased blood pressure. These effects can be very dangerous for both expectant mother and developing baby.

To avoid complications, it’s critical to avoid consuming salt water when pregnant. Work with your doctor to ensure adequate hydration and balanced sodium intake from healthy dietary sources only. Pay attention to any warning signs after accidental ingestion. While concerning, the risks can be managed with prompt medical care.

Above all, be cautious with salt consumption throughout pregnancy and don’t intentionally drink salt water. Making smart nutritional choices will help ensure the best possible outcome for you and your baby.