If you go outside and play a lot or participate in sports at school, you probably have heard your parents or your coach or gym teacher reminding you to drink plenty of water so that you don’t get dehydrated. Whether you’re a kid or a grown-up, water is important for everybody — but it is especially important for pregnant women. Read on to find out why!
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration happens when the body loses fluids at faster rate than it replaces them: in other words, the body has more water going out than it does coming in — and the result is that the body will literally dry out. When someone is dehydrated, their body simply does not work as well and problems with digestion, blood circulation and kidney health can all result. Most doctors report that the average American does not get enough water to drink; it is recommended that, at a minimum, 8 8-ounce glasses a day are needed to help the body function at its best.
Dehydration can be a real problem for pregnant women. For one thing, pregnant women need even more water than the average person. Water is actually an important part of the way the baby grows and develops during pregnancy. Lots of water is needed to make the placenta (which is like the life support system for the baby), blood and amniotic fluid that the baby needs.
That is why pregnant women should be drinking between 8 and 10 8-ounce glasses of water a day!
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration During Pregnancy?
There are many signs and symptoms that can tell a pregnant woman that she might be getting dehydrated. These include:
- Being easily overheated; higher risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke
- Dark yellow urine and/or less urine than normal
- Dizziness or weakness
- Decreased skin elasticity
Why is Dehydration a Problem During Pregnancy?
Dehydration during pregnancy is bad for mom and baby both. It can lead to any of the following problems:
- Worse morning sickness. Dehydration can start a vicious cycle when it comes to morning sickness. Here is the problem: a woman who is dehydrated will have increased nausea and vomiting — but this nausea and vomiting make it less likely that she will drink the fluids that she needs.
- Low amniotic fluids. Pregnant women who are dehydrated — especially if it is a chronic problem — can have low levels of amniotic fluids. In the first and second trimester (which is the first six months of the pregnancy), low levels of these fluids can mean that the baby has to rest against the uterus, which can lead to misshapen arms, legs and feet.
- Premature labor. In the second and third trimester (months 4-9 of the pregnancy), dehydration can put women at risk for going into labor early — and is in fact considered to be one of the top reasons for contractions. Why? When a woman is dehydrated, she has lower levels of blood in the her system. These low blood levels signal the body to increase more of a hormone caused oxytocin, which will act on the muscles of the uterus to begin contractions.
- Fatigue — or being tired — is an issue for most pregnant women, anyways. But being dehydrated makes the fatigue even worse, mostly because all of the body’s systems simply do not function as well without enough water.
In short, dehydration can have some pretty serious consequences!
How is Dehydration Treated?
Whether pregnant or not, dehydration is treated more or less the same way. If it is mild or moderate dehydration, then simply increasing the amount of water that is being drunk (without ‘chugging’ or gulping it down too fast) and possibly using electrolyte formulas like Pediasure (with the permission of your doctor). However, if a woman is severely dehydrated, she will usually have to be put into a hospital and fluids will be given to her through an IV that will go directly into her veins. Having an IV is no fun for anyone, which is why treating dehydration quickly — and better yet, preventing it in the first place — is so important.
How is Dehydration Prevented during Pregnancy?
The best way to prevent dehydration is, of course, to drink enough water! There are other things that women who are pregnant should keep in mind, though, as such:
- Avoiding beverages with caffeine or alcohol, both of which increase the amount that the body urinates and makes it more likely that dehydration will happen.
- Avoiding time in warm places, such as being outside on a hot day or being in a sauna or hot tub. Heat causes the body to sweat a lot — and sweat is another way that the body loses fluids.
- Drinking a little water throughout the day instead of trying to gulp down a lot all at once. This will help the body absorb the water better.
- Paying attention to signs of dehydration — and treating it before it gets severe.
So remember — dehydration is a problem for anyone, but in pregnant women it can be particularly hard on mom and baby both — which is why it is so important to get enough to drink every day!