Drinking adequate quantities of water is crucial for your health. It’s even more important if you’re pregnant because it concerns not one but two lives. Dehydration occurs if your body loses more water than your intake. Insufficient water intake can have serious health effects in pregnant women.
A pregnant woman requires more water than the average person as water plays a vital role in the healthy development of your baby. Water helps in the formation of the placenta, which is what your baby depends on to receive nutrients during pregnancy. Water is also required to form the amniotic sac in the later stages of your pregnancy. So, it is very important to avoid dehydration during pregnancy.
The best way to tell if you are dehydrated is to check the color of your urine. An indication of being well-hydrated is when you pass urine that is clear, pale or straw-colored, as opposed to dark yellow. If your urine is dark yellow, it means that you must increase your water intake.
The American Pregnancy Association recommends that pregnant women drink at least 8-12 glasses of water per day to prevent dehydration. Here are some common effects of dehydration in pregnant women.
1. Prevents Effective Waste Removal
Water plays a pivotal role in removing waste from your body.1 It also helps in liver and kidney functions for both you and your baby. Dehydration may lead to the ineffective removal of waste substances from your baby’s cells and can cause undue stress on the baby’s liver and kidneys. Water also helps prevent urinary infections, which are common during pregnancy. Drinking enough water dilutes your urine and reduces your risk of infection.
2. You May Feel Dizzy
Pregnant women sometimes experience dizziness, which can be caused due to various reasons. Dehydration is one factor that causes dizziness.2 If you feel unsteady and lightheaded, it may be because your body does not have sufficient water. Even exercising, which is considered healthy for expecting mothers, can occasionally cause dizziness. The best thing to do is to sit down and drink a glass of water.
3. Maternal Overheating
Maternal overheating is a sign of dehydration and if your water intake is inadequate, your body finds it difficult to regulate heat. To compensate for this, your body may sweat more, which makes you lose extra water. Overheating can also occur when a pregnant woman is in a sauna or a hot tub.3
Normally, pregnant women are encouraged to avoid them. As maternal overheating may cause neural tube defects in babies, it’s imperative that pregnant women avoid getting too hot.4 If your body temperature goes beyond 102 degrees, your baby also experiences overheating.
4. Reduces Amniotic Fluid
Many factors can cause a reduction in the amniotic fluid and dehydration is one of the major factors.5 According to the American Pregnancy Association, the amniotic sac protects the fetus and aids in the development of limbs, muscles, lungs, and the digestive system. Low amniotic fluid in the early stages of pregnancy can cause birth defects or even miscarriage.
If the amniotic fluid is low during the later stages of pregnancy, it can cause pre-term birth and impaired fetal growth. It may also cause labor complications that may require a cesarean delivery or compression of the umbilical cord.
5. Low Breast Milk Production
Water is a major component of milk. Understandably, water is also essential for a mother to produce sufficient quantities of breast milk. According to experts, dehydration can cause pregnant women to have poor milk production, which can have a negative impact on the growth and nourishment of the baby.
More studies are required to show that dehydration can cause low breast milk production.6 Nevertheless, women must ensure that they consume the recommended dosage of water right from the early stages of pregnancy.
6. Headaches And Migraines
Studies show that dehydration can cause headaches in people, in general.7 This holds good for pregnant women too. Dehydration is considered as a trigger for headaches and migraines, which can have a detrimental effect on the mental health of the mother and the fetus.
Though the connection is not well-established, certain studies have shown that the blood vessels in the head may become narrow when attempting to regulate fluids. This makes it difficult for oxygen and blood to reach the brain, resulting in a headache.
7. Affects Your Mood
Water plays a significant role in maintaining your mood.8 When your body becomes dehydrated, you become easily irritated and may lose your cool frequently. The human brain requires adequate water and oxygen for optimal performance. Without water, the brain is unable to function normally and this adversely affects your mood.
Besides a physical connection between you and the baby, there is a strong emotional connection too. If you suffer from bouts of mood swings, it will have an impact on the mental development of the fetus.
8. Increases Risk Of Pre-Term Contractions
Dehydration in the third trimester can trigger uterine contractions and cause pre-term labor. Pre-term contractions are directly related to dehydration.9 Contractions caused by dehydration do not result in a premature delivery.
Instead, the cramping-like contractions make pregnant women feel miserable and usually brings fear for the woman and her family. When there is not enough water in the mother’s body, the blood becomes more concentrated. It is a relatively common problem, especially in the summer months.
|↑1, ↑7, ↑8||Popkin, Barry M., Kristen E. D’anci, and Irwin H. Rosenberg. “Water, hydration, and health.” Nutrition reviews 68, no. 8 (2010): 439-458.|
|↑2||What Causes Hypotension? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2010.|
|↑3||Duong, Hao T., Syed Shahrukh Hashmi, Tunu Ramadhani, Mark A. Canfield, Angela Scheuerle, and Dorothy Kim Waller. “Maternal use of hot tub and major structural birth defects.” Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology 91, no. 9 (2011): 836-841.|
|↑4||Milunsky, Aubrey, Marianne Ulcickas, Kenneth J. Rothman, Walter Willett, Susan S. Jick, and Hershel Jick. “Maternal heat exposure and neural tube defects.” Jama 268, no. 7 (1992): 882-885.|
|↑5||Schreyer, P., D. J. Sherman, M. G. Ervin, L. Day, and M. G. Ross. “Maternal dehydration: impact on ovine amniotic fluid volume and composition.” Journal of developmental physiology 13, no. 5 (1990): 283-287.|
|↑6||Ndikom, Chizoma M., Bukola Fawole, and Roslyn E. Ilesanmi. “Extra fluids for breastfeeding mothers for increasing milk production.” The Cochrane Library (2014).|
|↑9||Stan, C., Michel Boulvain, P. Hirsbrunner-Amagbaly, and R. Pfister. “Hydration for treatment of preterm labour.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2 (2002).|