If you’re pregnant this summer, remember to drink plenty of water. While many pregnant women attend doctor appointments and avoid too much junk food, they may be forgetting this important habit.
Pregnancy significantly increases the importance of drinking water throughout the day, for the health of both the expectant mother and her baby.
Dangers of dehydration
Prevent dehydration during pregnancy by drinking plenty of fluids, especially during hot summer months. Never wait until you are thirsty to drink – feeling thirsty means you’re already dehydrated.
“The most serious danger of dehydration in pregnancy is toxemia, which is life-threatening to both mother and child,” says Shoshanna Bennett, a psychologist specializing in pregnancy and postpartum issues, and the author of Beyond the Blues: A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression. Toxemia is high blood pressure during pregnancy; it’s also known as preeclampsia/eclampsia, or pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH).
“Dehydration also can cause anxiety and depression, which in pregnancy can affect both mother and child,” says Bennett. Drinking enough water in pregnancy will help keep the mother’s physical and mental health stable, as well as help prevent toxemia.
“A pregnant women has waste products from both herself and her baby being released into her system; pregnant women have a greater need for detoxification,” says Bennett. “This extra demand on her kidneys produces a greater need for water. Drinking at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day is necessary for normal cholesterol and blood pressure. It also will help prevent arthritis, fear, anxiety, depression, allergies and insomnia.”
How much is enough?
The amount of water needed for a healthy pregnancy varies from woman to woman. “Some women who are more active need 2 liters a day, while the next woman might need eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day,” says Laura O’Flaherty, a certified nurse midwife.
A simple guide to knowing if you are drinking enough water is to observe the appearance of your urine. “It should be pale yellow to clear throughout the day,” O’Flaherty says. Another simple guideline during pregnancy, she says, is to drink a water amount equal to half your weight in ounces.
A woman’s cardiovascular needs increase in pregnancy; the blood volume in a pregnant woman’s body increases by about one-third to accommodate the greater cardiac energy needed, says O’Flaherty. Extra water during pregnancy helps maintain cardiovascular health.
“If a pregnant woman is perspiring from exercise, or just from carrying added body weight, she should drink extra water to make up for the loss,” Bennett says.
Experts such as Bennett believe there’s no beverage that substitutes for water – a water bottle should travel with a pregnant woman wherever she goes.
“Many of my clients will set a timer or a watch that beeps to remind them it’s time to drink water,” Bennett says. Pregnant women who drink enough water during pregnancy will feel better overall with more energy and fewer headaches, says O’Flaherty.