What happens if you don’t drink enough water while pregnant?

Staying hydrated is important for everyone, but it becomes especially critical when you’re pregnant. Water helps carry nutrients to your baby and also plays a role in regulating body temperature, digesting food, flushing out waste, and much more. So what exactly happens if you don’t drink enough water during pregnancy?

Dehydration Effects on Mother

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, which causes an array of unpleasant symptoms for moms-to-be. Effects may include:

  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth and lips
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dark urine
  • Increased thirst
  • Heat intolerance or heat exhaustion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Constipation
  • Urinary tract infections

Dehydration during pregnancy can easily sneak up on you. That’s because pregnancy hormones increase urination, so you can become dehydrated more quickly. The heat and humidity of summer can also deplete fluids faster. It’s essential to watch for the initial signs of dehydration and increase water intake right away before it progresses further.

Effects on Baby

When a pregnant woman is dehydrated, it also threatens the well-being of her unborn baby. Lack of fluids reduces the amniotic fluid that surrounds and protects the fetus. Amniotic fluid acts as a cushion against bumps and injury. It also helps the lungs, digestive system, muscles and limbs develop properly. Diminished amniotic fluid is known as oligohydramnios. Potential risks include:

  • Impaired growth
  • Birth defects
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • Stillbirth
  • Problems with the placenta
  • Umbilical cord compression
  • Abnormal fetal heart rate

Drinking adequate water helps maintain healthy amniotic fluid levels during pregnancy. Get checked by your doctor if you notice decreased fetal movement, changes in discharge, or symptoms of dehydration.

Increased Risk of Preeclampsia

There is also evidence linking maternal dehydration with higher risk of developing preeclampsia. This serious condition impacts up to 8% of pregnancies and involves high blood pressure along with signs of damage to other organs like the kidneys and liver. Warning signs include:

  • Sudden swelling in the hands and face
  • Persistent headaches
  • Vision changes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased urine output

Preeclampsia can be dangerous for both the mother and baby. Potential complications include placental abruption, impaired fetal growth, preterm delivery, and even stillbirth. Staying hydrated may help reduce preeclampsia risk by maintaining adequate blood flow and flush toxins from the body.

Higher Chance of Early Labor

Some research indicates that being dehydrated during pregnancy increases chances of going into labor prematurely. One study found higher rates of preterm birth among women who were even mildly dehydrated compared to those with optimal hydration levels. Possible explanations include:

  • Contractions may be triggered sooner when the uterus is deprived of adequate fluids.
  • Dehydration stresses the body, prompting labor hormones like cortisol.
  • Inflammation from dehydration may cause changes in membranes supporting the fetus.

More studies are still needed to confirm the link between low fluid intake and preterm birth. But maintaining good hydration is wise to help avoid early contractions.

Greater Risk of Water Retention

Failing to drink enough water can seem counterintuitive, but it can actually worsen fluid retention during pregnancy. Here’s why: when the body is chronically short on water, it tries to hold onto whatever moisture it can. Hormones then tell the kidneys to conserve water, resulting in bloating and swelling.

Being well-hydrated helps maintain the delicate fluid balance in your changing body. Stave off edema by drinking plenty of water. Get checked by a doctor for sudden swelling in the hands, feet or face, as that may signal preeclampsia.

Higher Blood Pressure

Drinking more water may also help control high blood pressure in pregnant women. One study divided expecting mothers into two groups. The water group consumed 2 liters of water daily, while the control group maintained their usual fluid intake. After 9 weeks, the water group showed significantly lower blood pressure readings.

High blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to complications like preeclampsia, placental abruption, preterm delivery, and growth issues. Experts advise aiming for 8 to 12 glasses of water per day to support healthy blood pressure.

Greater Risk of Birth Defects

Research indicates that maternal dehydration in early pregnancy may increase chances of certain birth defects. One study found higher rates of congenital heart problems, cleft lip and palate, and neural tube defects like spina bifida in babies whose mothers had low total water intake in the first trimester.

It’s thought that fluids help nourish and form fetal cells as organs develop in those crucial early weeks. Drinking recommended amounts before and during pregnancy protects baby’s growth and well-being.

Increased Risk of UTIs

Urinary tract infections are quite common during pregnancy, affecting up to 10% of expecting moms. That’s because hormonal changes, shifts in the urinary tract, and increased glucose in urine make it easier for bacteria to thrive.

Drinking more water helps dilute urine and flush out bacteria before infection can set in. One study found that pregnant women who drank less than the recommended intake had nearly twice the risk of developing a UTI compared to those who drank adequate fluids.

If you experience UTI symptoms like burning upon urination, increased frequency, back pain, or foul-smelling urine, get checked right away. Catching and treating a UTI promptly can prevent complications like kidney infections.

Higher Risk of Blood Clots

Pregnant women have higher risk of developing dangerous blood clots. Staying well-hydrated may lower the chances by keeping blood vessels open and blood flowing. Dehydration causes the blood to be thicker and flow more sluggishly.

Blood clots that form deep in veins, called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), most often occur in the legs. But pieces can break off and travel to the lungs, known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). These can be life-threatening. Drink plenty of fluids to maintain optimal blood flow.

Greater Fatigue

Feeling completely exhausted is par for the course during pregnancy. But being even mildly dehydrated can greatly worsen fatigue. Water gives your blood volume a boost, enhancing blood flow to the muscles and brain. Proper hydration also prevents electrolyte imbalances that can cause weakness and lethargy.

Combat bone-tiredness by keeping water handy at all times. Take a water bottle along on errands, drink between contractions in labor, and sip fluids in the nightstand to fight morning sickness exhaustion.

Higher Risk of Constipation

Constipation commonly strikes during pregnancy thanks hormone shifts slowing digestion. Not drinking enough fluids just makes it worse because water softens and adds bulk to stool. Try increasing daily fluid intake to 9 cups or more to ease constipation.

Avoid holding it too long when you feel the urge to have a bowel movement as that can worsen hemorrhoids. Regular exercise, a fiber-rich diet, and stool softeners can also help relieve pregnancy-related constipation.

Greater Chance of Excessive Weight Gain

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy raises risks like gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery. Some research shows dehydration may contribute to excessive weight gain by triggering the body to retain more fluids.

Interestingly, drinking more water may also boost metabolism and fat breakdown. aim for the recommended 8 to 12 cups of fluid daily to help optimize weight gain and health.

Higher Heart Rate

Studies show even mild dehydration quickly elevates heart rate as the circulatory system works harder to pump oxygenated blood through the body. Maintaining good hydration levels helps keep your heart rate in a healthy range.

Pregnancy already increases heart rate by up to 15 beats per minute. Avoid compounding this and straining your cardiovascular system by drinking adequate water.

Greater Risk of Yeast Infections

Yeast infections are another common nuisance during pregnancy. The candida fungus grows more readily in the warm, moist environment of the vagina. When hydration levels drop, the acidity of the vagina changes and candida overgrowth may occur.

Drinking plenty of water helps restrict yeast growth by maintaining the vagina’s normal pH. Along with water, also limit sugar intake. See a doctor about using over-the-counter creams if you develop yeast infection signs like itching, burning, and thick discharge.

Higher Chance of Postpartum Depression

Some emerging research shows that low fluid intake may increase risk of postpartum depression. In one study, pregnant women with inadequate hydration had more than triple the odds of experiencing postpartum depression compared to those with sufficient intake.

Possible reasons for the link include dehydration causing fluctuations in hormones like cortisol and neurotransmitters like dopamine. Aim to stay well-hydrated day-to-day to help stabilize moods after delivery.

Tips to Drink More Water During Pregnancy

Make hydrating a priority during your pregnancy by employing these helpful tips:

  • Carry a water bottle and take sips frequently throughout the day.
  • Drink a glass of water first thing when you wake up and before each meal.
  • Set a phone reminder to drink water at regular intervals.
  • Infuse your water with fruits or cucumbers for flavor.
  • Freeze some freezer-safe water bottles to prevent water fatigue.
  • Try seltzer or sparkling water for some fizz.
  • Drink water after trips to the bathroom to stay ahead of thirst.
  • Have a glass on your nightstand if you wake up at night.
  • Choose water over sugary drinks.
  • Eat water-rich fruits and veggies like oranges, grapes, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.

How Much Water Do You Need While Pregnant?

There are varying recommendations on optimal water intake during pregnancy. Here are some common expert guidelines on how much you should drink:

  • 8 to 12 glasses of water daily – This is one of the most widely cited recommendations.
  • At least 10 cups per day – The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises drinking 8 ounces every 2 hours to stay hydrated.
  • About 16 cups daily – Other sources recommend drinking half your pre-pregnancy body weight in ounces of water.
  • 2.3 liters per day – The World Health Organization (WHO) sets general pregnancy hydration guidelines at 2.3 liters, or about 10 cups.

Aim for the higher end of recommendations in hot weather or if exercising. Increase intake if you experience dehydration symptoms. Check with your doctor on optimal fluid intake for you.

Monitoring Hydration Levels

How do you know if you’re drinking enough water during pregnancy? Monitor these signs:

  • Urine color – Pale yellow indicates adequate hydration. Dark yellow means drink more fluids.
  • Frequency – Needing to urinate every 2 to 3 hours shows you’re well-hydrated.
  • Volume – Healthy intake produces about 6 cups of urine over 24 hours.
  • Thirst – Mild thirst is normal but extreme thirst signals dehydration.
  • Lips – Cracked lips can be a hydration red flag.
  • Headaches – Dehydration commonly causes pregnancy headaches.
  • Fatigue – Low energy and exhaustion may indicate need for more fluids.
  • Weight – Sudden jumps may be water retention from dehydration.

Let your doctor know if you have any symptoms of low fluid intake. They may run tests like urine specific gravity and urine osmolality to assess hydration.

Meeting Your Fluid Needs

Plain water is the gold standard for optimal hydration during pregnancy. But what you drink matters less than the total quantity. Other healthy fluid sources include:

  • Sparkling water
  • Unsweetened tea
  • Decaf coffee
  • Low-fat milk
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Coconut water
  • Vegetable juice
  • Vegetable broth
  • Fruit-infused water

Avoid sugary sodas, sweetened juices, alcohol, and caffeinated coffee in excess as these can have a mild diuretic effect. For variety, try alternating different beverages throughout the day.

When to See a Doctor

Notify your healthcare provider if you experience concerning symptoms that may be tied to low fluid intake like:

  • Severe or persistent headaches
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Swollen feet, hands or face
  • Sudden changes in vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blood in urine
  • Burning with urination
  • Uterine contractions before 37 weeks
  • Decreased fetal movement

Your doctor can check for complications and may order lab tests or ultrasound to assess amniotic fluid levels or kidney function if dehydration is suspected. Proper hydration is easily managed with diligence.

Key Takeaways

  • Dehydration during pregnancy poses risks like neural tube defects, low amniotic fluid, preterm birth, UTIs, preeclampsia and blood clots.
  • Aim for 8-12 cups of water daily minimum, or about half your pre-pregnancy weight in ounces.
  • Monitor urine color, thirst, fatigue, and other signs to gauge if you need more fluids.
  • See a doctor for symptoms like vision changes, swelling, nausea/vomiting, and uterine contractions.
  • Drink up for your health and your baby’s well-being!

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