Dehydration During Pregnancy

Dehydration can be hard to detect. While most of us have been dehydrated at some point, it is imperative that mothers-to-be stay hydrated for both their health as well as their baby’s. Dehydration can sneak up at any time and you must keep yourself educated on the causes, symptoms, and treatments available for the same.

What is Dehydration?

Simply put, dehydration occurs when your body loses more water than it replenishes. Dehydration is a ‘doorway sickness’ meaning that it could lead to other conditions like heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and stroke. A pregnant woman’s body requires more water than anyone else as her body is making blood and other fluids for her baby.

Causes of Dehydration During Pregnancy

There are several reasons that could cause dehydration during pregnancy. Noticing the dehydration in pregnancy due to these reasons is vital as you can then take the necessary measures to correct the same.

  • Increased blood volume: The blood volume in a pregnant woman’s body will increase by 50%. This is one of the main reasons for dehydration in early pregnancy. The body requires more water at this stage and will find it hard to retain water.
  • Morning sickness: About 50% of pregnant women suffer from morning sickness which includes nausea, vomiting, excessive urination, and sweating. All of these conditions lead to a loss of water in the body. Morning sickness usually occurs in the first trimester and should ease up in the second trimester. Nausea will put you off from wanting to take in fluids, but you must do so anyway. Dehydration in pregnancy due to vomiting is very common.
  • Amniotic fluid formation: The baby develops in the womb surrounded by amniotic fluid which allows for easier foetal movement and the development of the muscular and skeletal structure of the baby. It also protects your baby from any shocks or sudden movements. The formation of the fluid requires water which might cause you to feel dehydrated.
  • Reduced intake of water: The regular daily consumption of water is around eight glasses. However, pregnant women need a minimum of twelve glasses to stay hydrated. Any reduction in this volume could result in dehydration.
  • Excessive sweating: Sweating during pregnancy is common, but if the water is not replaced it could cause dehydration.
  • Diarrhoea: In the third trimester, you might find yourself suffering from bouts of diarrhoea. This is because of hormonal changes along with an aversion to certain foods that are important to maintain your gut’s health. If you do not hydrate during this time, it could result in you becoming dehydrated.

  • Weather: If you live in a hot or humid place, then your body will end up losing a lot of water. However, turning up the air conditioning might not be the answer. A room that is air-conditioned has very less moisture which could cause you to lose moisture through your lungs.
  • Age: One of the complications of a pregnancy above the age of 35 is the inability of the body to retain water. You will also not feel thirsty, so you must remember to hydrate regularly.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration in Pregnant Women

Here are the signs of dehydration that you must watch out for.

Mild Dehydration

  • Slight thirst
  • Slight anxiety
  • Increased heart rate
  • Decrease in frequency of urination

Moderate Dehydration

  • Severe thirst
  • Tiredness
  • Decreased frequency of urination
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth

Severe dehydration

  • Extreme dehydration
  • Dry mouth and chapped lips

  • Low amounts of dark coloured urine
  • Nausea, vomiting, headache, and abdominal cramps
  • Severe headache
  • Exhaustion
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased frequency of breaths
  • Sunken eyes
  • Prolonged skin recoil
  • Low blood pressure

If you notice any of these signs or you are feeling dehydrated when pregnant, seek medical help immediately. Prolonged dehydration can be very harmful to your baby and you must work with health care experts to correct this condition.

Risks

Risks of dehydration during pregnancy include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Neural tube defects
  • Low amniotic fluid
  • Low breast milk production
  • Premature labor

Complications Related to Dehydration During Pregnancy

Dehydration can affect a pregnant woman in several ways depending on how far along she is. Here are the risks of dehydration by trimester

Effects of Dehydration During the First Trimester

  • Severe nausea and dizziness: Morning sickness coupled with dehydration can become a vicious cycle with one condition feeding off the other. Dehydration causes nausea, while morning sickness causes dehydration. Breaking this cycle is important. Sometimes, expectant mothers have to be given IV fluids for dehydration.
  • Reduced amniotic fluid: The formation of amniotic fluid is largely dependent on how much fluid intake there is in the initial months of the pregnancy. Low levels of water results in a reduced amount of amniotic fluids. This will result in the baby sticking to the uterine walls rather than floating in the fluid.
  • Affects the formation of the placenta: A sustained loss of fluids and electrolytes could affect the way the placenta is formed.

Effects of Dehydration During the Second and Third Trimester

  • Premature labour: When a pregnant woman’s body is dehydrated, the volume of blood decreases. This causes the levels of the hormone oxytocin to increase. Oxytocin is directly responsible for the contractions of the uterus. A decrease in hydration is one of the causes of premature labour.
  • Increase in muscle cramps: Dehydration will cause the body’s temperature to increase which, in turn, causes your muscles to cramp. This condition can be extremely uncomfortable.
  • Fatigue: Most pregnant women will experience some amount of fatigue. However, dehydration will make the fatigue much worse.
  • UTI: Dehydration in this stage could increase the chances of a urinary tract infection, which could cause complications with the kidney and result in early labour.

Treatment for Dehydration in Pregnancy

If you are experiencing mild to moderate dehydration during your pregnancy, then the best way to tackle it is by drinking more water. If your dehydration is caused by nausea and vomiting, talk to your doctor about getting medication for nausea. This will help you ingest more water along with stopping nausea.

Check with your doctor if you can drink electrolyte supplements as they can help balance your system.

In case of severe dehydration, you might have to visit the emergency room and be administered IV fluids for dehydration like a 0.9% of sodium chloride solution.

How Much Water Should a Pregnant Woman Drink?

Most doctors recommend that you increase the water intake according to the colour of your urine. The urine should be either clear or light yellow. In case the colour is dark yellow or orange, it is time to have more water in the day.

If you are indulging in light activities, then a good rule of thumb is to have one cup of water for every hour of the activity. If you exercise regularly, you need to have more water to match the loss of water.

Some of us can go without hours before we realise that we are thirsty. In such a case, a pregnant woman must use a water journal where she notes the time and amount of water consumed. This can be done via an app as well, as it will give you reminders on when and how much water to drink.

Have a glass of water before and after a meal. This not only helps you to remember to drink water, it also helps with any issues of constipation.

How Can Dehydration be Prevented During Pregnancy?

There are many ways you can ensure that you stay hydrated during pregnancy.

  • Drink the right amount of water, but with frequent intervals. Drinking too much water too fast can put too much pressure on your kidneys.
  • Drink one cup of water for every hour that you are awake.
  • If plain water is not to your liking, then add a couple of slices of lemon, or a few pieces of watermelon into your water for added taste.
  • Incorporate liquids into your diet. Soups and fresh fruit juices are great sources due to their water content. Make sure that the juice is made at home and that it is sugar-free.
  • Do not consume caffeine, soda, or processed fruit juices with too much sugar. These substances act as a diuretic which is counterproductive.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise and going out when it is hot. You will lose a large quantity of water and put unnecessary pressure on your body.

When Should You Call The Doctor?

Dehydration can cause alarming symptoms. You must immediately rush to the emergency room if you feel a weakness in your pulse or have a spell of fainting. Apart from these, a rapid heartbeat along with bloody stools also warrant a visit to the doctor. If you haven’t urinated for more than eight hours, you must contact your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read on for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about dehydration during pregnancy.

1. How Can Dehydration Cause Premature Birth Of The Baby?

Since dehydration decreases the volume of the blood, the level of the hormone oxytocin will increase. This hormone is responsible for, among other things, the contraction of the uterine walls. If dehydration hits in the later months of pregnancy, the contractions could be strong enough to send you into premature labour.

2. Does Dehydration Cause Cramps In Early Pregnancy?

Dehydration will cause the temperature of your body to increase. When this happens, the muscles begin to cramp. Dehydration can occur during any stage of your pregnancy. It is imperative that you stay hydrated by drinking enough water along with making sure that you eat fresh fruits on a regular basis.

Dehydration can be a condition that sneaks up on you and catches you unaware. Keep track of the amount of water you drink as well as the colour of your urine. Use apps or set reminders to drink your daily recommended amount of water. Remember, you are now drinking water not just for yourself but also for the child growing in you.

Conclusion: In this article, we realise the significance of something that we normally tend to brush under the table- Dehydration, its causes and how it could adversely affect your health and that of your baby. With just a few simple hacks, you could take good care of your little one.