The Importance of Hydration During Pregnancy
Pregnancy requires you to drink more water than the average person. Learn more about the importance of adequate hydration while you’re pregnant.
By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton
We often talk about “eating for two,” but rarely discuss the importance of water intake during pregnancy. Adequate hydration is necessary for many bodily functions and can also improve some pregnancy outcomes.
What does it mean to be well hydrated?
The adult body is made up of about two thirds water. Water is what keeps our organs functioning properly and our body temperature regulated; it also helps flush out waste and delivers vital nutrients to our cells. A healthy balance of fluids entering and leaving the body must occur in order for water to properly do its job in the body. When this balance is off, dehydration or fluid overload can occur, both of which can have negative results. Good hydration helps to prevent urinary tract infections, headaches, constipation, kidney stones, and more.
If you’re drinking the recommended amount of water every day and adjusting for hot weather, illness, or physical activity, odds are you should be well hydrated. The daily recommended amounts are:
Nonpregnant women: six to nine cups
Men: eight to twelve cups
Paying attention to the color of your urine is also a helpful way to monitor your hydration level. A well hydrated person should have clear to light yellow urine with no strong odor.
What factors influence hydration?
There are many factors that can influence fluid balance including medications with diuretic effects, medical conditions such as heart failure and kidney disease, hormone imbalances, severe blood loss, electrolyte balance, surgery recovery, and symptoms of illness like vomiting, diarrhea, or a high fever. Some groups are at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated, such as babies and infants, elderly people, athletes, and those with certain health conditions.
Pregnancy can also put someone at risk for dehydration due to the increased demands for water with increasing gestational age and various pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness and hormonal fluctuations.
Why electrolytes are important
Most people only think about water when they hear the word hydration, but there’s another piece of the puzzle. Electrolytes are the minerals and ions found in water that allow the body to regulate chemical reactions and balance fluids. Electrolytes can be found in food and drinks, are shed through urine and sweat, and are vital for helping keep the body balanced. Sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium are a few names you may recognize. Without these important minerals, the body may not be able to transport water and nutrients properly. You can actually have an electrolyte imbalance even if you’ve been drinking a lot of water, which is why it’s important to get your vitamins and minerals in through a multivitamin or an electrolyte drink.
Importance of hydration during pregnancy
More fluids are required during pregnancy in order to support healthy fetal development and maternal health. Fetal circulation, amniotic fluid, and increased blood volume are all dependent on healthy fluid volume. Being well hydrated during pregnancy can lead to many benefits, including:
Improving fetal outcomes
Multiple studies have researched the link between hydration and fetal and maternal outcomes. A case control study found that increased water consumption was able to decrease the odds of some birth defects. These included spina bifida, oral clefs, limb deficiencies, and heart defects.
Other research also shows that dehydration during pregnancy may result in decreased birth weight and diminished length, head circumference, and chest circumference.
Controlling swelling and constipation
Swelling during pregnancy is commonly seen in the legs, feet, and fingers. This is the body retaining and producing more water and blood to prepare for childbirth. It may seem counter intuitive, but staying hydrated can be very helpful for controlling swelling related to pregnancy. If you continue to bring in fluids, your body will be less likely to retain excess water. If you are experiencing pregnancy swelling, try a soothing cooling cream for relief!
Another common pregnancy symptom is constipation. There are many factors that can impact constipation during pregnancy, but ACOG recommends drinking plenty of water along with a fiber supplement to help manage constipation and hemorrhoids.
Decreasing risky complications
Adequate fluid intake has been associated with a decreased risk of preterm birth. Research also shows that dehydration increases the risk of oligohydramnios or decreased amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid is responsible for protecting the fetus and transporting vital nutrients. Decreased amniotic fluid may cause serious side effects, including maternal and fetal complications and poor fetal outcomes.
Improving mood and energy
Fatigue and mood swings tend to be described as a roller coaster throughout pregnancy. It’s common to experience low energy levels during the first trimester and sometimes the third trimester, while the second trimester is commonly associated with an increase in energy and mood. Research shows that staying hydrated may be able to keep your energy up during pregnancy. A study found that fluid intake helped to reverse dehydration related dips in mood and alertness.
Signs of dehydration
Pregnancy may increase your risk of a fluid imbalance due to the loss of fluids associated with increasing perspiration, increased tidal volume (the amount of air inhaled and exhaled), vomiting, diarrhea, and hormone fluctuations. Keep an eye out for any signs of dehydration, such as dark urine, strong smelling urine, constipation, increased thirst, etc. and be sure to immediately increase your water intake. If you notice signs of severe dehydration, including abnormal pulse, confusion, dizziness, or no urine output for more than eight hours, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Treating and preventing dehydration
The best way to treat dehydration is to prevent it from happening at all. Follow ACOG guidelines and try to drink at least eight cups of water a day. If you’re having a hard time drinking enough, try infusing your water with fruits and herbs, try a flavored drink mix such as Natalist magnesium plus or hydration & energy electrolyte mix, eat foods with a high water content like broths, cucumbers, and citrus fruits, and pick up some seltzer water if you like carbonation. Find more products and tips for helping with hydration during pregnancy on Natalist’s website.
If you are showing signs of dehydration such as thirst and dark or strong smelling urine, you should up your water intake immediately. Additionally, you may want to opt for a bit of fruit juice and a snack to maintain electrolyte balance. Usually treatment for dehydration will be replacing lost fluids and electrolytes through the diet, but in some severe cases, intravenous fluids (an IV) may be necessary. See a healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your hydration.
Water is what keeps our organs functioning properly and our body temperature regulated; it also helps flush out waste and delivers vital nutrients to our cells.
Fluid balance can be off if too much fluid is lost or consumed, which can lead to dehydration or fluid overload.
It’s recommended that pregnant women drink eight to twelve cups of water a day.
Hydration and fluid balance can be impacted by electrolytes, illness, medical conditions, etc.
Staying hydrated during pregnancy is vital for healthy fetal outcomes, controlling pregnancy symptoms, decreasing risky complications, and improving mood and energy.
Signs of dehydration are thirst, low urine output, headaches, constipation, and more. Be sure to see a healthcare provider if you’re concerned about your water intake.