Dehydration During Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

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Sport and Drink Water During Pregnancy

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What Causes Dehydration

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Dehydration during pregnancy is a serious concern, and you want to be sure you stay well-hydrated. Hydration is important for both mother and baby, and dehydration can cause serious health problems.

I typically drank a lot of water during pregnancy, so much water I felt like I could float on a river. My bathroom and I had a close relationship through all of my pregnancies. However, when I was pregnant with my third child, I came down with a stomach illness that was terrible. I couldn’t keep anything down, and I was close to being admitted to the hospital. Dehydration is dangerous, especially when you’re pregnant.

Dehydration is caused by your body losing water faster than it takes in. It is a health risk for everyone, but pregnant women can face many complications from dehydration. There are two general reasons why someone, including pregnant women, might be dehydrated.

1. Not Drinking Enough Water

Pregnancy increases the water demands on the body, so pregnant women typically need to drink more water than they did before pregnancy. If you live in a hot climate or are physically active, you need to drink even more.

You might not realize just how much water you might need. If you head to a warmer climate, you might not realize that you needed to increase your water amount to avoid dehydration.

Luckily, fixing dehydration caused by not drinking enough water is easy to fix. You just have to drink more water.

2. Not Absorbing Enough Water

Have you ever had a stomach bug that led to diarrhea and vomiting? Those types of problems can cause issues with your body absorbing water.

Nausea and vomiting are common in pregnancy, especially in the first few months. Morning sickness can make you sick often. In fact, 50 to 80 percent of pregnant women will experience morning sickness, and it’s the primary cause of dehydration during pregnancy.

3 percent of pregnant mothers experience hyperemesis gravidarum, which is intense vomiting that leads to weight loss and dehydration. It’s similar to morning sickness, but in an extreme version, and it remains throughout pregnancy.

Other health issues can cause issues as well, especially anything that affects metabolism. A few issues could be:

  • Kidney failure
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Any metabolic disorder

Another problem that you might face is a fever. Body temperatures that are higher are normal, and it can cause vomiting and loss of fluids.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration During Pregnancy

In order to avoid dehydration or know when to seek help, you have to understand the signs of dehydration during pregnancy. It may start off just being thirsty, but thirst isn’t always a sign of dehydration. Everyone gets thirsty throughout the day, so look for other signs.

Signs of dehydration during pregnancy include:

  • A dry feeling in the throat or mouth
  • Dry-looking skin
  • Dry, chapped lips
  • Less elastic skin
  • Less frequent urination
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Not sweating, even in hot weather
  • Feeling weak or exhausted
  • Constipation and hard stools
  • Feeling lightheaded

Many women will feel Braxton Hicks contractions when they’re dehydrated. One of the first things you should do when you feel Braxton Hicks contractions is sit down and drink some water.

If the dehydration isn’t addressed, it can lead to more severe dehydration, and those signs might include:

  • Racing heart
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Changes in baby’s pattern of movement
  • Low blood pressure

Dangers of Dehydration During Pregnancy

Mild dehydration isn’t typically dangerous in pregnancy, and it’s easy to fix. You just need to make sure you get enough fluids in your body. The problems and dangers arise when you reach severe dehydration.

Dehydration during pregnancy can lead to many serious pregnancy complications, such as:

1. Severe Nausea and Dizziness

If you have morning sickness already, dehydration can add to the cycle, feeding off each other. Dehydration causes nausea, and morning sickness causes dehydration. This is why some pregnant women end up needing IV fluids.

2. Low Amniotic Fluid

The creation of amniotic fluid is largely dependent on how much fluid intake there is in the beginning months of pregnancy. Lower levels of water can reduce the amount of amniotic fluid, causing the baby to stick to the uterine walls.

3. Formation of the Placenta

You need to have proper fluids and electrolytes to ensure that the placenta is formed properly.

4. Premature Labor

One of the biggest risks of dehydration during pregnancy is premature labor. When you’re dehydrated, your volume of blood decreases, which causes the levels of the hormone oxytocin to increase. Oxytocin causes the contractions of the uterus, so dehydration can cause premature labor.

5. Fatigue

You’re probably tired already since pregnancy feels exhausting. However, dehydration makes that fatigue so much worse.

6. UTIs (source)

Dehydration increases the risk of a urinary tract infection. This can cause an issue with your kidneys, and a kidney infection increases the risk of early labor.

7. Increase in Muscle Cramps

Dehydration can cause your body temperature to increase leading to your muscles to cramp. It can be uncomfortable, to say the least.

8. Cramps in Early Pregnancy

In early pregnancy, dehydration is associated with low sodium levels, and it can result in cramps. It also can cause muscle stiffness which can cause the baby’s sac to break away from the uterus. It can cause spotting. If you notice this, then you need to drink more water and don’t perform any physical activity.

Related Reading

Dehydration in Pregnancy When to Go to the Hospital

It can be hard to determine by self-diagnose that your dehydration warrants a trip to the hospital. The first thing that you should do is try to drink water or an electrolyte drink. If that doesn’t improve the symptoms, you need to call your OBGYN or midwife. If it’s on the weekend and no services are available, consider an urgent care center.

Pregnant women should head to the hospital if they experience any of these issues:

  • Baby’s movement pattern changes
  • Leaking fluid
  • Start to bleed
  • Experience contractions that could be a sign of premature labor
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts longer than 12 hours
  • Have a serious medical condition like kidney failure
  • Produced little to no urine
  • Fainted
  • Had a seizure or feels confused

If you go to the hospital for dehydration, you’ll likely receive fluids giving through an IV. Some women will need electrolytes, such as sodium or magnesium, which helps you absorb fluids properly. In severe cases, you may need to be admitted for monitoring.

Can Pre-Existing Conditions Make Dehydration Worse?

Dehydration can happen to anyone, pregnant or not, but there are certain people who have a higher risk of dehydration. These things could affect pregnant women as well. Some of these things we avoid during pregnancy, such as alcohol, heatstroke, or a high fever.

Some pre-existing conditions that might make dehydration during pregnancy worse include:

  • Diabetes can increase your risk of becoming dehydrated, and that includes all types of diabetes - type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
  • Exercise is good for pregnant women, but if you sweat so much that you lose up to half a cup of water per hour, then you need to adjust. It’s not healthy for you or the baby.
  • If you spend too long in a hot shower or wrapped too warmly, it can cause you to sweat too much.

Why is Hydration So Important During Pregnancy

Everyone needs water; hydration plays an overall role in health. However, pregnant women need more water than the average person. Water plays a role in the development of your baby. It helps to form the placenta, which gives your baby all of the required nutrients throughout pregnancy. Water forms the amniotic sac in pregnancy, so you need water and hydration.

Here are some interesting facts about the importance of hydration during pregnancy.

1. Your Blood Volume Increases

Your blood volume increases by one and a half times during pregnancy or more! A healthy pregnant woman has anywhere from 3850 to 5000 ml of blood. If we don’t drink enough water, we will have lower blood pressure.

2. The Placenta and Amniotic Fluid Use Water

If you don’t drink enough water, it can prevent the placenta and amniotic fluid from growing as it should. That could lead to problems later in the pregnancy.

3. Vitamins Need Water to Be Absorbed

B and C vitamins are only carried in water. So, if you don’t have enough water in your system, your body won’t be able to absorb enough of these vitamins. Your body and growing baby need these vitamins.

4. A Buildup of Byproducts Stops Growth

You’re growing a lot of things during pregnancy like a placenta, extra skin, and a baby. So, you use a lot of proteins and minerals, leaving bits that need to be flushed out in urine. Less water means less urine and less opportunities to flush out byproducts.

5. Proper Breast Milk Supply

If you don’t drink enough water, you won’t have enough fluid to create your breast milk supply. This is considered important if you have a baby or toddler that you’re still breastfeeding when you’re pregnant.

How to Stay Hydrated During Pregnancy

We know that hydration is one of the keys to a healthy pregnancy and baby, but how do you stay hydrated in pregnancy? Here are a few tips to remember.

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Pregnant women need to drink plenty of water. The recommendation is 8 to 12 glasses of water per day at least. Figuring out the recommended amount of water needed during pregnancy isn’t an exact science, but 8 to 12 glasses of water is a good recommendation.

Don’t forget that milk, juice, soup, hot decaf tea, fruit, and every other kind of liquid or source of water counts as well! If you live in a warm climate, remember that you’ll need to increase the amount of water up by at least one or two glasses, and it should increase if you exercise as well.

Remember that, if you drink more glasses, you want to choose a drink with no or fewer calories. Try to drink no more than two or three glasses of juice, soda, and full-fat milk each day.

2. Avoid Caffeine

An extra cup of coffee may sound great, but caffeine can increase your urine output. Too much urine output can cause dehydration. It’s recommended that you only consume 200 milligrams of caffeine per day when you’re pregnant. Caffeine is a diuretic, so it’s not a good choice if you’re feeling sick and vomiting.

3. Avoid Overheating Activities

Exercise is healthy for pregnant women, so you don’t want to avoid exercising. However, avoid strenuous exercise or spending too much time in hot environments. If you head to the hot beach, bring plenty of cold water.

4. Try Mild Teas

If you’re nauseous, sometimes plain water can be tough to hold down. Instead, try some mild teas which might be less of a shock than cold water hitting your system.

5. Don’t Eat Overly Dry Foods

Eating overly dry foods isn’t a good idea. You might be tempted to do so if your nausea calms down. However, try to make an attempt to have soups and fruit salads. These foods are sources of water and minerals.

Fruits and popsicles are your friends. Watermelons are mostly water, hence their name, and pears, melon, and oranges are also good picks. Many pregnant women find that popsicles are a life-safer. They can help keep your fluid levels up, and some have even had chunks of fruits in them.

Wrapping It Up

Dehydration during pregnancy is a serious problem. It puts your health at risk and your baby’s health at first. Try to stay naturally hydrated throughout your pregnancy. If you have trouble keeping water down or you see signs of dehydration, make sure to speak to your doctor.

If you see signs of severe dehydration, head straight to the emergency room. It’s better to be cautious than to suffer complications.

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