Dehydration During Pregnancy: Signs & Prevention

Last Updated On: 

May 9, 2018

When you lose water more quickly than you can absorb it, you get dehydrated. During dehydration, your body struggles to perform routine functions. You have to replace the fluids you lost, or you may end up with other problems, many of which can result in hospitalization.

Hydration is especially important for pregnant women. Women who are pregnant need more water than an average person because water plays an integral part in the health of both mom and baby.

Water aids in the formation of the placenta, which is the primary deliverer of nutrients to the baby during pregnancy. Water will also form the amniotic sac that later protects the fetus as he or she grows.

It’s easy to see why hydration is essential to the health of both a pregnant woman and her child – something we’re going to be discussing in great detail in this article.

How Much Water Should You Drink?

During pregnancy, your water intake should increase to support the healthy development of your baby. This includes eight to twelve 8-ounce glasses of water every day.

This varies depending on the individual, but a good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces. For instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should drink 100 ounces of water per day.

Keep in mind that you can also get water from other sources like juice and fruit, not just plain water you drink from a cup or bottle.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

It’s important to listen to your body because it will tell you if you’re dehydrated. There are many symptoms of dehydration, and if you can recognize them, you can improve the state of your body quickly, before anything else worse happens.

As a pregnant woman, you may often overheat. This is normal, but it can also be a sign of dehydration. Your body struggles to regulate its own temperature without water, making you apt to overheat more often.

Dark urine color is another good indicator of inadequate hydration. When your urine is clear, it means you are well hydrated.

Keep an eye out for these other symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Decreased urination

These symptoms indicate that you should drink more water and rest more than you currently are. You should also always keep your doctor updated on how you feel and any difficulties you may have.

Severe dehydration comes with a separate and more serious set of symptoms:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Dry mouth, skin, and mucous membranes
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Little to no urine output, and the urine you do have is dark
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure

When experiencing these symptoms, you need medical attention immediately.

Causes of Dehydration During Pregnancy

There are many conditions you experience as a pregnant woman that can cause dehydration, ones you may not exactly be aware about. Make note of the following and try to compensate with more water consumption.

1) Increase in Blood Volume

Very early on in your pregnancy, your blood volume increases by fifty percent. This is one of the leading causes of dehydration because you’re not used to taking in so much water, and your body has a hard time retaining it.

2) Morning Sickness

About half of pregnant women experience morning sickness. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sweating, and excessive urination. Each of these can lead to a loss of fluids, making you dehydrated.

Morning sickness also makes you not want to take on water for fear of throwing it up, but it’s important to do it anyway.

Nausea should ease up in the second trimester, making it easier to drink more water.

3) Hypermesis

Hypermesis is severe morning sickness. It’s rare, but affects about two percent of pregnant women. While it’s often confused with normal morning sickness, it is much more serious.

Hypermesis lasts throughout the entire pregnancy and includes excessive vomiting, severe nausea, and the complete inability to keep food down. It often requires medical attention.

4) Production Of Amniotic Fluid

Your pregnant body is also busy making things like amniotic fluid, which channels a lot of water away from it.

The amniotic fluid allows for your baby to move and develop while protecting them from harm.

5) Sweating and Overheating

Remember, sweating and overheating are both widespread occurrences during pregnancy, but they contribute to a lot of dehydration, so be aware of when your temperature rises and try to drink more water.

6) Hormone Fluctuation

Hormone changes in a pregnant body can cause diarrhea, leading to more dehydration.

It’s also normal to experience an aversion to certain foods, and without a balanced diet, it’s hard to maintain intestinal health, leading to diarrhea and dehydration.

7) Weather

Take into consideration things like the what the weather is like where you live.

Hot and humid weather can cause you to lose water, but cold air lacks the same amount of moisture, so you need to remember to drink water in conjunction with intensifying heat.

8) Air Travel

Pregnancy is a fun time to travel, especially if you live far away from family.

Lots of people want to see you glowing first hand or get their arms around your bump.

Beware of the toll traveling can take on your body and make sure you drink enough water to compensate for the fact that airplane cabins have very little moisture.

9) Age

Your age has a lot to do with your water retention.

Women over the age of thirty-five have a harder time holding onto their water supply, so you may not feel as thirsty as your body is.

10) Medication

Some medications can even cause dehydration, so you should always discuss any daily medications you’re taking with your doctor and make sure they’re safe to take during pregnancy.

It’s also extremely important to discuss taking any new medications with your doctor before actually starting to take them during pregnancy.

Complications from Dehydration

Because your body uses water during pregnancy to take proper care of your baby’s health and ensure their proper development, the complications from dehydration on a pregnancy are both concerning and scary.

1) Contractions

Dehydration can also set Braxton-Hicks contractions in motion.

These tightenings of your uterus should only last a minute, maybe two. They happen naturally when your body is preparing for labor and should not form any consistent pattern.

However, dehydration can cause them to happen more frequently, so if your baby isn’t ready, you should take care to eliminate any unnecessary contractions.

Typically, you won’t feel them until the third trimester, so if you’re feeling them earlier, or more frequently, you need to drink more water.

It goes without saying that if you experience too much preterm labor or deliver too early, there are risks associated with the delivery as well as your baby’s health.

You can read more about that here, but it’s important to avoid that at all costs.

2) Heat Injury

It’s important to keep a healthy exercise regimen when you’re pregnant for both your mental and physical health, as well as the health of your baby.

You should never do anything too strenuous and always talk to your doctor about it first so they give you the green light.

However, if you don’t stay adequately hydrated, you could end up with a heat injury such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or – worst of all – heat stroke, which is potentially life-threatening.

3) Kidney Problems

Dehydration can cause urinary tract infections, kidney stones, or kidney failure.

While these are extreme circumstances, you want to make sure you can identify the symptoms of dehydration early enough so that nothing this serious occurs.

4) Seizures

Electrolytes help keep the electrical signals in your body operating properly. These electrical signals help your cells communicate with one another.

When they get out of balance, which is caused by dehydration, it can lead to seizures.

5) Hypovolemic Shock

Hypovolemic shock is potentially life-threatening, and it occurs when you’re dehydrated.

Low blood volume from a lack of proper hydration causes your blood pressure to drop, which decreases your oxygen supply.

Dehydration during pregnancy can also cause the following:

  • Neural tube defects
  • Low amniotic fluid
  • Low production of breast milk
  • Birth defects
  • Heat injury
  • Urinary problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Seizures

Tips to Stay Hydrated

By now you may be thoroughly freaked out. So, sorry about that!

But don’t worry, there are plenty of creative ways to keep hydrated. Of course, the most effective way to stay hydrated is drinking plenty of water.

1) When to Drink Water

If you have a lot of indigestion, you can try drinking water between meals instead of doing so while you eat.

If morning sickness prevents you from drinking more, try drinking plenty of water when you don’t feel sick, so you don’t have to worry about it when you do.

2) Avoid Caffeine

Drinking caffeine increases your desire to go to the bathroom, which of course eliminates fluids from your body.

While you should limit your caffeine intake while pregnant anyway, try cutting back even more if you struggle with dehydration.

3) Decrease Strenuous Activities

Things like exercise also cause fluid loss, so if you can’t replace those fluids, it’s best to stay away from strenuous activities that cause your body temperature to rise.

Even being outside when the weather is hot can cause you to lose too much fluid.

Other Ideas

Of course, drinking water gets boring after a while, so if you struggle with your daily intake of eight to twelve glasses a day, or you have a hard time giving up those habits we listed above, here are some other nifty ideas.

1) Oral Rehydration Solutions

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of talking to your doctor about consuming anything that may be unsafe during pregnancy, but there are oral re-hydration solutions on the market that could help with your fluid intake.

Sports drinks like Gatorade, Pedialyte, and Hydralyte may be good options.

They contain extra electrolytes and unique balances of glucose to help you rehydrate more quickly.

2) Eat Your Water

There are also a lot of fruits that contain mostly water.

In fact, about twenty percent of your daily water intake comes from food, so if you struggle with plain water, you can get a lot of hydration from these:

– Cucumber has the highest water content of any solid food with 96.7%. You can dice it up for salads or dip it in hummus. It’s delicious on hamburgers, blended with yogurt, or sliced in a bowl of soup.

– Iceberg lettuce contains 95.6% water, but sometimes health experts recommend spinach or romaine lettuce instead because they’re higher in fiber, folate, and vitamin K. However when it comes to water content, you can’t beat iceberg. Make a salad, put it on hamburgers, or integrate it into tacos.

– Celery does not have negative calories, despite the urban legend that says it does. But with 95.4% water and a lot of fiber, it’s incredibly healthy, fills you up, and aids in healthy digestion by curbing heartburn and acid reflux, which is invaluable while you’re pregnant.

– Radishes make a perfect addition to coleslaw, resulting in a yummy burst of flavor with 95.3% water. They are full of antioxidants and give you a sweet and spicy crunch.

– Tomatoes are versatile. They go great on sandwiches, in chili, with salads, and on top of tacos. There are also varieties like cherry and grape that you can use for a snack on their own. And they contain 94.5% water for a wonderful hydrating effect.

– Green peppers edge out their red and yellow bell pepper competition with 93.9% water. They have the same number of antioxidants, and they taste great with ranch or hummus.

– Watermelon is so juicy and sweet, and it makes for a perfectly refreshing summer treat with 91.5% water. When you’re done snacking, you can have a seed spitting contest.

– Starfruit isn’t one of the more popular varieties of fruit, but it’s tropical flavor, and juicy texture contains 91.4% water. It looks great on the rim of a summer beverage and is rich in antioxidants.

– Strawberries make great smoothies, mixed in with yogurt, or sliced over cereal. They have 91% water, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein.

– Grapefruit can help lower bad cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar. It helps reduce cravings for other foods and has 90.5% water.

– Baby carrots contain more water than full-sized carrots at 90.4%. They’re ready to serve and make for an easy snack with ranch dressing, hummus, or guacamole. You can also serve them with a salad.

– Cantaloupe contains 100% of your vitamins A and C and holds 90.2% water. This juicy payoff is packed with nutrition and easy to blend with yogurt or freeze into sherbet.

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully, you’re inspired to take in more water by eating some healthy foods, but if you need some other options, you can also get some of the fluids you need from milk, fruit juice, soup, popsicles, and ice chips.

It’s tough sometimes to drink enough water to stay hydrated, especially when you struggle with other pregnancy-related symptoms that make it difficult to eat or drink.

With so many different complications that can cause dehydration, it may feel overwhelming.

Failing to drink any water at all can have dire consequences, so listen to what your body tells you and look out for symptoms of dehydration.

If you aim for the recommended number of glasses per day, you should stay hydrated and healthy.

Don’t get discouraged when you have a rough day. Focus on staying healthy and use some of the other methods of water intake to mix it up and keep it interesting.

You and baby are going to do great!

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