Staying hydrated is always important, but it's a significant need during pregnancy. Pregnant women not only need more water than normal, but the growing baby needs water, too. Water is a critical component for the healthy development of the baby, as well as a healthy and strong mother.
Learn more about dehydration during pregnancy and how you can ensure that you have the hydration you and your baby need.
How to Prevent Dehydration During Pregnancy
Dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than it can replenish. In healthy individuals, this can occur from excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea or simply not drinking enough water to counteract normal water loss throughout the day.
When dehydration occurs, people can experience symptoms ranging from fatigue and a headache to mental confusion and organ malfunction in severe cases. During pregnancy, these concerns are more pronounced because water is used to form the placenta, an organ that provides oxygen and nutrients to the fetus and removes waste products.
Water is also necessary for the amniotic sac, a fluid-filled membrane in which the fetus grows. The amniotic sac is vital to temperature regulation for the baby; lung, digestive and musculoskeletal development; and protection from injury.
Between the baby itself, the mother's needs, the placenta, and the amniotic sac, it's easy to understand why proper hydration is so vital to a healthy and safe pregnancy. If a pregnant woman doesn't get enough water, complications of dehydration may include:
- Neural tube defects
- Premature labor
- Low amniotic fluid
- Low breast milk production
- Birth defects
To make matters worse, many pregnant women experience morning sickness and vomiting, which leads to more fluid and electrolyte loss. Pregnant women are also prone to overheat, which causes excessive sweating and fluid loss.
Some other risk factors for dehydration in pregnancy include intense diarrhea, fever, vigorous exercise and simply not drinking enough water to accommodate the needs of the growing baby.
Symptoms of Dehydration During Pregnancy
The symptoms of dehydration during pregnancy are similar to dehydration in general. They include:
- Dry mouth
- Decreased urination
Overheating is also a sign of dehydration. When you don't drink enough water, your body is unable to cool itself effectively. Then you overheat more, leading to more sweat and fluid loss, worsening the dehydration.
Dehydration can also trigger Braxton Hicks contractions, a type of contraction in which the uterus tightens for a few minutes. While Braxton Hicks contractions are common and not a cause for alarm, they can be uncomfortable or painful.
These mild symptoms can usually be corrected by drinking more water, but more severe symptoms and complications can develop from prolonged or chronic dehydration during pregnancy. These include:
- Overwhelming thirst
- Excessively dry mouth, skin, and mucous membranes
- Extremely low urine production
- Dark urine
- Sunken eyes
- Mood changes
- Rapid heart rate and respiration
- Low blood pressure
If any of these symptoms occur, it's a medical emergency. Correcting the problem early is the best way to recover from dehydration and protect yourself and your baby.
Tips for Preventing and Managing Dehydration During Pregnancy
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Naturally, the best way to prevent dehydration is to simply drink a lot of water and other fluids throughout the day to supply your body with the necessary liquids. You can drink plain water, juice, tea, smoothies, and other drinks to stay hydrated.
How much water to drink while pregnant varies between women, but you can aim for eight to 12 glasses each day to ensure you're getting enough water.
If morning sickness or indigestion makes drinking water difficult, be sure to drink water in between meals and at moments when you're not feeling nauseated. If the morning sickness is severe enough to prevent keeping fluids down, speak with your physician.
Eat Fresh Foods
Even if you're indulging your cravings and eating some decadent foods, it's important to focus your main diet on healthy, fresh foods. You'll not only get a ton of water and nutrients from fresh fruits and vegetables, but you'll also get a dose of essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.
Avoid Strenuous Activity
Many pregnant women choose to keep engaging in the physical exercise they enjoy for as long as possible into their pregnancy. However, it's important to remember the risks of overexertion and overheating. If you're planning to exercise, keep your activity level light, and be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
Electrolytes and Pregnancy
Another component of dehydration is the loss of electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals with an electrical charge that help carry out a variety of functions in the body, such as muscle contractions, neural transmissions, building new tissue, maintaining healthy pH values, and chemical reactions. Electrolytes include well-known nutrients like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphate.Healthy individuals often experience a loss of electrolytes through normal daily activities, just like water loss, but pregnant women are prone to losing electrolytes more rapidly and at a higher volume. And the reason why is simple — you pee a lot more.
During pregnancy, blood flow to the woman's kidneys increases, which in turn makes the kidneys produce more urine. This begins right after conception. The increased urine production continues throughout the pregnancy, but it peaks between nine and 16 weeks.
Pregnant women also experience dramatic shifts in hormone levels, some of which influence the volume and frequency of fluid production, including urine. As the uterus grows, it puts pressure on the bladder as well, which causes increased urination in the third trimester.
Electrolytes are important at any point in life, but they have some specific roles in pregnancy. All nutrition is provided through the placenta during pregnancy, which is high in sodium and low in potassium. The amniotic fluid electrolytes are tightly regulated, and in the third trimester, potassium is accumulated in the fetal tissues while sodium is delivered in amniotic fluid. This balance of electrolytes, and how they shift, is vital to healthy development.
Sodium is also important for its role in transferring water between cells and its balance with potassium. When sodium is high, potassium is low, and vice versa. Because sodium is believed to be a factor in developing preeclampsia, a significant pregnancy complication, maintaining the ideal electrolyte balance is crucial.
Signs of Electrolyte Imbalance During Pregnancy
Electrolytes are necessary for many functions, including the regulation of fluids within the body. Here are some signs that you need electrolytes:
Thirst that occurs after drinking plenty of fluids may indicate depleted electrolytes. Drinking more water will make the imbalance more pronounced.
Swelling is a normal part of pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. Still, swelling occurs when fluid isn't properly transferred between cells, which is one of the roles of electrolytes in the body.
Constipation is an uncomfortable condition during pregnancy. If you're drinking enough water and eating enough fiber but are still experiencing constipation, it's possible that your electrolytes are imbalanced and are preventing proper water balance in the body.
While electrolyte deficiencies don't cause morning sickness, lacking certain minerals doesn't help. Low levels of nutrients like magnesium and vitamin B6 have possible links to more severe discomfort during pregnancy, so maintaining the appropriate levels of these nutrients can reduce the severity of morning sickness symptoms.
Headaches have a ton of causes and are a common occurrence during pregnancy, but headaches can also occur from low electrolytes and dehydration. If you're experiencing chronic or severe headaches, it's time to consider your hydration levels and supplementing with electrolytes.
How to Keep Electrolytes Balanced
There are many ways to keep your electrolytes balanced, such as:
- Eating a balanced, healthy diet of minimally processed foods
- Avoiding taking diuretics for prolonged periods of time
- Moderating your salt intake - sodium is an electrolyte, but eating too much can disrupt the balance of sodium and potassium in your system
- Avoiding strenuous exercise during hot and humid days, which promotes excessive sweating and fluid and electrolyte loss
- Replenishing your electrolytes with water and an electrolyte supplement that gives you the combined hydration you need
If you're concerned about your electrolyte balance and nutrient needs for you and your baby, speak to your doctor about your diet and options for supplementation.
Curious? Give Buoy a Try!
If you're looking for an added electrolyte boost to stay hydrated during your pregnancy, Buoy is a quick and convenient option. The portable, squeezable bottle packs an electrolyte punch that can be added to any drink you wish, from your morning decaf latte to plain water. Buoy is designed to be mixed into any drink, so it's easy to get a dose of electrolytes at any time, day or night.
You can take the handy bottle with you wherever you go as well, from your morning yoga session to doctor's appointments and even your baby shower, so you'll always have the hydration you need for you and your baby's healthy development. Start squeezing your Buoy today!
Water to drink while pregnant, Dehydration during pregnancy, Complications of dehydration
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- NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/what-is-the-amniotic-sac/.
- Raines, Deborah A. “Braxton Hicks Contractions.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 11 Nov. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470546/.
- Hussein, Wael, and Richard A Lafayette. “Renal Function in Normal and Disordered Pregnancy.” Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4117802/.
- E., F., et al. “WATER AND ELECTROLYTES IN PREGNANCY.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Jan. 1968, academic.oup.com/bmb/article-abstract/24/1/15/342520?redirectedFrom=PDF.
- Rylander, Ragnar. “Treatment with Magnesium in Pregnancy.” AIMS Public Health, AIMS Press, 10 Dec. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5690444/.