Dehydration During Pregnancy
Symptoms and Effects
by Nancy Hearn, CNC

pregnant woman drinking waterDehydration during pregnancy can be dangerous

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Dehydration during pregnancy can negatively affect both the pregnant woman and the fetus.

For the pregnant woman, the effects of dehydration can range from headaches to low blood pressure to decreased breast milk production after birth.

And for the unborn child, dehydration can affect everything from basic lack of nourishment to potential birth defects.

In general, we recommend  pregnant women drink half their body weight in ounces of water.  For example, if you weigh 160 lbs, you would drink 80 ounces of water a day, or about 2 ½ quarts/liters.

However, this amount can vary, depending on a woman’s size, weight and other health factors. 

Importance of Hydration

All of us are dependent on water for every bodily function. Being properly hydrated is even more important for pregnant women because the healthy function of their bodies will directly affect their fetuses.

Just a few of the most important functions of water in the body include: 

  • The flow of blood and lymph throughout the body
  • Brain function
  • Protection and regulation of organs
  • Hormone balance
  • Regulation of body temperature
  • Lubrication and cushioning of the joints
  • Bowel and urine regulation
  • Transfer of nutrients to cells and tissues 
  • And the removal of waste out of the cells.

Effects of Dehydration During Pregnancy

When a pregnant woman is dehydrated, any one or more of the bodily functions will not perform optimally.

In addition, wastes build up in the fluid that surrounds the cells in her body, preventing available nutrients from getting into those cells and ultimately to the fetus.

In addition, if metabolic toxins are not removed from the cells and tissues on a daily basis, they can deprive the cells of oxygen and even cause cell mutation. 

When water is lacking during pregnancy, one of the first functions that is affected is detoxification. 

All of the detoxification functions in the body—including breathing, sweating, urinating and defecating—require water. 

Symptoms of Dehydration

Thus, it is important for a pregnant mother to know the symptoms of dehydration, and start drinking more water if she starts to experience one or more symptom.

According to Healthline, the following are some of the most common symptoms, from mild to severe.

Mild to moderate dehydration symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Overly sleepy

Severe dehydration symptoms include:

  • Very dark urine
  • Little or no urine
  • Extreme thirst
  • Irritability and confusion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat

Caution:  Severe dehydration during pregnancy requires immediate medical attention. 

Effects of Dehydration on the Baby

Since water affects every bodily function in the pregnant woman, it stands to reason that this is also true for the fetus.

Water is used to help form the placenta, which delivers nutrients to the unborn child. Water is also used in the amniotic sac, which cushions and protects the baby.

Dehydration during pregnancy can cause serious complications, including:

  • Birth defects
  • Inadequate amniotic fluid
  • Neural tube defects
  • Early labor
  • Decreased breast milk production

Prevent Dehydration During Pregnancy

Staying hydrated is one of the most important and inexpensive health habits a pregnant mother can do to provide the best environment and nourishment for her child.

Do whatever it takes to get hydrated and stay hydrated before, during and after pregnancy.

If you have morning sickness, drink more fluids when you are not feeling nauseous, especially if you have a tendency to vomit. Vomiting itself can cause dehydration.

Caffeine is dehydrating, so avoid it as much as possible. Also be careful about overheating during hot weather or intense or prolonged activity.

There are no substitutes for plain H2O in the body. Juices, milk, broth can help with fluid replacement, but they do not have the same properties as water. 

However, avoid tap water or any other unfiltered water. It is worth investing in a home drinking water filter rather than drinking bottled water.

Bottled water is poorly regulated and you never know what you are getting.

If you don’t like the taste of water, it is probably because you are not drinking clean filtered water that contains minerals. Most people do not like the taste of de-mineralized water, such as distilled or R.O. water.

However, if you filtered mineral water and you still want to flavor your water, you can add unsweetened electrolyte mineral packets (such as Electro-Mix or Nuun electrolytes) to your water a few times a day. 

Or you can add ½ teaspoon of fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice to a glass of water once or twice a day (as long as you don’t have a citrus allergy).

Reference; Symptoms of Severe Dehydration During Pregnancy; Jessica Timmons; 2016.

Resource; How to Know If You're Dehydrated During Pregnancy; 2018.

Further reading . . .

Drinking Enough Water Facts

Lemon Water During Pregnancy

Return from Dehydration During Pregnancy to Dehydration Effects of Water Loss in the Human Body

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