Why is hydration so important during pregnancy?
You know the saying water is the source of life? That is never more true than when you are pregnant.
Just as it’s important to eat well, it’s also essential to drink well.
There are many reasons for you to stay well-hydrated during pregnancy, but there are critical benefits to your developing baby as well. In the early stages of pregnancy, your blood volume expands significantly to supply your baby and the placenta. Water composes the majority of this blood content in the form of plasma.
Water also helps your body absorb the essential nutrients from those healthy foods you are eating and transports vitamins and minerals into the blood cells. In the same way, water helps absorb and transport the nutrients in prenatal vitamins. Those nutrient-rich blood cells nourish the placenta and your baby.
Why you need more fluids during pregnancy
Your hydration needs increase during pregnancy because your body requires extra fluids to support fetal circulation and amniotic fluid. Water helps flush toxins out of your system and keeps your amniotic fluid at healthy levels. It also helps you make the extra blood your body requires during pregnancy.
Both you and your baby depend on water to play a vital role in keeping your liver and kidneys functioning properly. Dehydration could lead to inadequate removal of waste substances from your baby's cells and place strain on their liver and kidneys. Dehydration in the third trimester can trigger uterine contractions and lead to preterm labor. Dehydration can also lead to fatigue and constipation — just what you don’t need — and can contribute to urinary tract infections (1).
Hydration also helps during birth, since having an adequate fluid supply ensures that you have the reserves to tolerate blood loss (2).
Keep it up! Hydration continues to be important as your body adapts after delivery, and getting enough water helps you maintain sufficient milk if you are breastfeeding.
How much water should you drink during pregnancy?
The current recommendation is to drink 8–10 glasses of water every day. Water helps you maintain the necessary volume of fluids.
The best thing to drink is pure, filtered water. Some women have trouble drinking plain water, though, especially if they struggle with nausea during the first trimester. If this is the case for you, try seltzer or add a splash of fruit juice to water. (Lemon or other sour juices may help settle your stomach.)
Beware of impurities
Some tap water contains impurities — anything from disease-causing microscopic organisms to heavy metals from old pipes to chemicals like chlorine used to treat water. Watch out for lead in particular because it can have an effect on the baby’s neurodevelopment (3). Water contamination is of particular concern for those who already have a reduced immunity related to the pregnancy or other factors (2).
We recommend getting a water filter. (A simple pitcher filter can do the trick.) Water filter pitchers are inexpensive and can filter out toxins such as heavy metals, chlorine, and pesticides. It’s a cleaner solution than drinking bottled water because plastic from the bottle can leach into the water. Plus, label claims such as “pure” or “filtered” may be false. Bottled water is actually less regulated than tap water. There’s also the cost and waste involved in buying bottled water and disposing of the bottles (4,5).
What types of beverages to avoid
Not all fluids are the same. Water is best, but other beverages can help you get enough fluids. However, some should be avoided or consumed in moderation.
- Sweetened beverages. Along with limiting high-glycemic foods, it’s best to avoid sugary beverages. The body does not detect liquid calories the same way it does solid food. That makes it much easier to drink nine teaspoons of sugar — the amount in the average can of soda — than it would be to eat it. Soda has other issues. A study of pregnant women found that prenatal consumption of soda (both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened) was inversely correlated with cognition scores in mid-childhood. In other words, the more soda moms drank while pregnant, the lower their kids’ problem-solving and memory skills at age seven (6,7).
- Caffeinated beverages. Consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine a day has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage. That’s about the amount in two small cups of coffee. Lower doses of caffeine — 50 to 149 mg — have also been linked to low birth weight (8-10). Another reason to avoid caffeine is that it can increase your urine output, leading to dehydration. It’s not a bad idea to avoid all caffeine (from coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks) to be on the safe side.
Carbonated, fizzy drinks. These don't contain the nutrients that you and your baby need, and are often packed with sweeteners. They are more likely to aggravate acidity and heartburn. Check labels of fizzy drinks carefully to see if they contain any caffeine before drinking them.
Tips to stay hydrated
- Drink at least eight to ten glasses of water a day. Start by drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up.
- Eat foods with high water content, like fruits, vegetables, soups, stews, and smoothies.
- Take small, frequent drinks throughout the day.
- Keep a glass of water or a stainless steel water bottle nearby to remind yourself to drink. (Plastic may leach toxic chemicals into your water.)
- Avoid activities that can cause overheating, such as spending too much time in an especially hot environment. Exercise is considered healthy for expectant mothers, but strenuous exercise and lack of water intake can lead to dehydration.
More benefits to staying hydrated during pregnancy
Hydration can alleviate constipation and hemorrhoids. Increased fluid intake, along with more fiber content in the diet, helps with these common pregnancy complaints. Hemorrhoids can be uncomfortable, but thankfully for most women most symptoms will resolve spontaneously soon after giving birth (11).
Other hydration benefits include reduced swelling, softer skin, increased energy and help preventing overheating (12). Avoiding dehydration also decreases the risk of urinary tract infections. Inadequate water intake can lead to several kidney problems ranging from uncomplicated urinary tract infections to more serious concerns such as kidney stones, acute kidney injury, and chronic disorders (13).
Signs and symptoms of dehydration during pregnancy
Pay attention to how your body is feeling. There are several common indicators that can alert you that you need to be taking in more fluids (14).
- Thirst and dry mouth. Extreme thirst and a dry mouth are the most common symptoms of dehydration. When your body is using more fluids than you are taking in, your mouth will feel dry and rough and you will be very thirsty.
- Maternal overheating. Overheating is a common sign of dehydration. Make sure you always have adequate water in your system to help regulate your body temperature.
- Dark urine. Notice the color of your urine since this can be a helpful indicator that you are staying hydrated. Urine should be light colored, as opposed to dark yellow. If your urine is dark yellow, that’s a sign you need to drink more water. Bright yellow, however, is often due to B vitamins. Also, note infrequent urination. Pregnant women need to urinate more frequently due to hormonal changes and pressure on the bladder, so infrequent urination could be a sign you aren’t hydrated enough.
- Headache and fatigue. The more fluids you drink, the better the blood circulates throughout your body. When you’re dehydrated, you lack energy. Often water can help cure a headache.
- Dry, flaky skin. Staying hydrated can help keep your skin soft and supple. If you notice your skin getting dry and itchy, it could be a clue that you are dehydrated.
- Blood in the stool. This can be a sign of dehydration, but can also be a sign of other problems. Be sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider.
Water is essential now more than ever, so be sure to get plenty. Drinking those 8-10 glasses of water a day can ward off the ill effects of dehydration. Continue to focus on a healthy diet and supplement nutritional needs with prenatal vitamins like Mama Bird® Prenatal Multi+ and Mama Bird AM/PM Prenatal Multi+. The good thing about eating well and staying hydrated during pregnancy is that simple adjustments to your routine can make a big difference in how you feel and in the health of your baby on the way. Salud!