Dehydration isn’t safe for anyone, but for pregnant women it can be dangerous, not only to themselves but to their unborn baby. Dr. Liesl Bredeson, OB-GYN at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, says that pregnant women have an increase in their blood volume anywhere from 30–50%, meaning that extra fluids are needed to maintain proper hydration.
“Women have a faster metabolic rate when pregnant,” she says. To keep the baby healthy, Mom must stay hydrated to keep nutrients flowing from the placenta to the baby. A dehydrated mom is a dehydrated baby, Bredeson says.
It’s typically not too difficult to stay hydrated when pregnant. The risks come when there is vomiting and diarrhea, which usually happens in the first trimester, Bredeson explains. Morning sickness definitely has the potential to make a mother dehydrated, so pregnant women need to continue drinking fluids.
“Most women don’t get dehydrated from morning sickness, but some do,” Bredeson says. Pregnant women are also susceptible to dehydration throughout their pregnancies if they fall ill from the flu or another infection.
Bredeson doesn’t think that a certain number of glasses of water are required to stay hydrated. So many variables that affect hydration—such as weight, activity levels or the weather outside—can increase or decrease the amount a person needs. Instead, Bredeson says to have liquid throughout the day—not just with meals.
“Smaller amounts stay down better,” she says, so taking a sip or two every minute is better, and easier, than chugging a large amount at the end of the day. If a ballpark average helps, the American Pregnancy Association recommends eight to 12 (8-ounce) glasses a day.
When looking for ways to stay hydrated, avoid drinking juice. “I strongly don’t recommend drinking juice,” Bredeson says. She refers to it as “junk” because there is so much sugar in it, which isn’t healthy for mom or baby. Some fruits and veggies can also be high in water, so snacking on them won’t hurt your hydration level; however, Bredeson finds the traditional and simpler way of drinking water is best.
“I think that water is the best fluid to keep drinking,” Bredeson says. If you’re not a fan of the flavor of water, Bredeson recommends adding lemon or cucumber slices to make the taste more palatable.
The best way to tell if you’re hydrated is simply by looking at your urine. If the color is a dark or concentrated yellow or if you are not urinating, that could be a sign you’re dehydrated, Bredeson says. Otherwise, pale yellow means you’re in the clear.
If you’re worried you are dehydrated, Bredeson says to get evaluated immediately, even if that means going to the ER when your doctor’s office is closed. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when your little one could be at risk.
This article was originally published in spring/summer 2013.