Water is essential for life. In fact, it makes for 50 to 75 percent of our bodies. It’s the basis of digestive juices, blood, urine, and sweat and is present in bones, fat, and lean muscle. And as our bodies don’t store water, we need to take in a fresh supply every day.
Water becomes all the more important when you’re pregnant.1 It helps in the formation of the placenta which delivers nutrients to your baby in the womb. It is also necessary for the formation of the amniotic sac.2 In fact, you need around 750 to 1000 ml more water when you’re pregnant than you would otherwise (an adult woman would normally need around 2.1 liters of water per day). So it’s important to stay hydrated when you’re pregnant.
Let’s take a look at some signs that could indicate that you’re dehydrated and the effect that this could have on your baby:
Signs Of Dehydration
Some indications of dehydration include:
- Dark colored urine
- Feeling thirsty
- Feeling dizzy
- Getting a headache
- Feeling tired
- Dry lips, mouth, or eyes
- Passing urine infrequently
- Maternal overheating. Water helps to regulate the temperature of your body and not getting enough can lead to overheating, a common indication of dehydration during pregnancy
What Causes Dehydration In Pregnant Women?
Factors that can lead to dehydration in all people – like excessive sweating due to hot weather or exercise, not taking in enough water, excessive urination due to conditions like diabetes or kidney disease etc. – can cause dehydration during pregnancy too.5
Extreme morning sickness, known as hyperemesis gravidarum, is a condition specific to pregnancy which causes dehydration. It’s normal for women to experience nausea and vomiting during the first trimester. This usually starts around the sixth week of pregnancy, peaks around the ninth and resolves by the sixteenth or eighteenth week. However, some women experience a severe version of this which puts them at risk for dehydration. Morning sickness may start earlier (between the fourth and fifth week) in women with this condition. Although, usually, the mom-to-be feels better during the second trimester (around the twentieth week), some women may continue to experience morning sickness through the entire pregnancy.6
Is Dehydration More Likely In Any Particular Trimester?
Should you be more concerned about dehydration at any particular time during your pregnancy? While it’s important to stay hydrated throughout your pregnancy, make sure you’re taking in enough fluids especially during times you are prone to loss of fluids. For instance, you need to be extra careful during the first trimester when you might experience loss of fluids due to morning sickness. And again, during the third trimester as some women experience diarrhea then.7
Effects Of Dehydration On Pregnant Women
Serious complications can develop if you’re dehydrated during your pregnancy:
- Your baby may have neural tube defects, which are birth defects of the spine, spinal cord, or brain.
- You may have low levels of amniotic fluid which cushions your baby in the womb. Although this condition can develop at any time, it’s usually seen during the third trimester.8
- Dehydration can cause Braxton Hicks contractions, which are commonly experienced during the third trimester. They are normal and tend to intensify as the time for delivery approaches (when they’re usually called false labor).9
- You could go into premature labor.
- You may produce insufficient breast milk.10
How To Avoid Dehydration During Pregnancy
1. Get In Fluids In Different Forms!
Making sure that you get enough fluids is critical to prevent dehydration while you’re pregnant. But you don’t need to limit yourself to just drinking boring old water! There are many ways to include fluids in your diet. In fact, ayurveda recommends that you consume nourishing foods like watery porridges of rice and pulses or drink milk to increase your fluid intake during the first trimester and to avoid dehydration due to morning sickness.11 You could also sip other nutrient-rich fluids like tender coconut water to keep yourself hydrated.
Another remedy involves mixing the juice of a half a lemon with 2 teaspoons of sugar and a pinch of salt and adding it to half a liter of water. Drinking a cup every 2–3 hours can help avoid dehydration and also quell nausea.12
2. Use An Oral Rehydration Solution
If you do experience symptoms of dehydration you need to take steps to replace lost fluids as well as minerals. You can make an oral rehydration solution (ORS) at home by mixing in 6 level teaspoons of sugar and half a level teaspoon of salt in 1 liter of clean drinking water.13 If you’re finding it difficult to keep the fluid down because of vomiting, try sipping small amounts frequently instead of drinking a larger quantity.
You also need to put a couple of things on your “Not To Do” list.
3. Cut Down Caffeine
Avoid consuming excess caffeine as it is a diuretic and can increase the amount of urine you pass. In fact, it’s recommended that you limit your caffeine intake to 200mL a day while you’re pregnant, which generally translates to one cup of coffee.14
4. Avoid Heat Exposure And Strenuous Exercise
It may also be a good idea to avoid spending time in the heat or activities like strenuous exercise which can lead to overheating and dehydration.15 Although some amount of exercise is healthy when you’re pregnant, don’t go overboard and tax your body.
|↑1, ↑5||Water – a vital nutrient. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑2, ↑4, ↑10, ↑15||Dehydration During Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms and Prevention. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑3||Dehydration – Symptoms. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑6||Severe Morning Sickness (Hyperemesis Gravidarum). The Nemours Foundation.|
|↑7||Diarrhea During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑8||Low Amniotic Fluid Levels: Oligohydramnios: Causes, Risks and Treatment. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑9||Braxton Hicks Contractions. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑11||Lakshmi, Vijay, and Sarika Srivastav. “Garbhini paricharya: Antenatal care in Ayurveda.” Journal of Ayurveda and Holistic Medicine (JAHM) 1, no. 8 (2013): 24-31.|
|↑12||Lad, Vasant. The complete book of Ayurvedic home remedies. Harmony, 1999.|
|↑13||Oral Rehydration Solutions: Made at Home. Rehydration Project.|
|↑14||Fetal Arrhythmia: Causes and Concerns. American Pregnancy Association.|