Dehydration During Pregnancy

Dehydration During Pregnancy

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If you are pregnant, other than eating a whole range of healthy foods, you will have to drink enough water too during this phase. Your doctor must have advised you to stay hydrated during pregnancy, and for good reasons, of course! Dehydration can be hard to detect but it can cause several problems during pregnancy. Yes, it can be problematic for anyone, but more so for pregnant women. And while most cases of dehydration in pregnancy are mild, severe cases of it can affect the health of both the mother and the baby.

What Is Dehydration?

Dehydration happens when your body loses more water than it replenishes. So if the water is not replenished lost fluids, you may become dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to other conditions like heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and stroke. It can even make your body struggle to perform normal functions. You will need more water during pregnancy as your body will make blood and fluids for your baby, hence staying hydrated is necessary.

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 increases 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 result in the loss of water from the body. Morning sickness usually occurs in the first trimester and should ease up in the second trimester. Dehydration is also experienced because of frequent episodes of vomiting.
  • Formation of amniotic fluid: Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby in the womb, which allows easier foetal movement and the development of the muscular and skeletal structure of the baby. It also protects the 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: We all know that we should consume around eight glasses of water daily. But a pregnant woman should drink at least twelve glasses of water to stay hydrated. Anything less 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 drink enough water during this time, you could become dehydrated.

Causes of Dehydration During Pregnancy

  • 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 pregnancy above the age of 35 is the inability of the body to retain water. If you are pregnant and in your mid or late 30s, you should drink more and more water to stay hydrated.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration in Pregnant Women

Generally, the normal sign of dehydration is feeling thirsty. Maternal overheating can also be one of the prominent symptoms of dehydration; if you don’t drink enough water, your body may find it difficult to regulate heat and you may become prone to overheating. But there are several other symptoms of dehydration that you must watch out for. Dehydration can range from mild to moderate to severe. Let’s have a look at their symptoms.

Mild Dehydration

  • Feeling slightly thirst
  • Feeling slightly anxious
  • An increase in heart rate
  • A decrease in the frequency of urination

Moderate Dehydration

  • Severe thirst
  • Tiredness
  • A decrease in the frequency of urination
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth

Severe dehydration

  • Extreme dehydration
  • Dry mouth and chapped lips

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration in Pregnant Women

  • Low amounts of dark coloured urine
  • Nausea, vomiting, and headache
  • 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 feel dehydrated during pregnancy, seek medical help immediately as prolonged dehydration can be very harmful to your baby.


Following are the risks associated with dehydration during pregnancy.

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

Complications Related to Dehydration During Pregnancy

Dehydration can affect a pregnant woman in different ways depending on how far along she is. The risks of dehydration in the three trimesters of pregnancy are explained below.

Effects of Dehydration During the First Trimester

  • Severe nausea and dizziness: Morning sickness coupled with dehydration can become a vicious cycle. Dehydration may cause nausea, while morning sickness may cause dehydration. Breaking this cycle is important. Pregnant women will have to be given IV fluids for dehydration.
  • Reduced amniotic fluid: The formation of amniotic fluid largely depends on the fluid intake of pregnant women in the initial months of her pregnancy. Low levels of water results in a reduced amount of amniotic fluids. This can 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 fatigue much worse.
  • UTI: Dehydration in this stage could increase the chances of a urinary tract infection, which could cause complications in the kidney and result in early labour.

Treatment for Dehydration During 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 and curb nausea too. Check with your doctor if you can drink electrolyte supplements as they can help balance your system. However, in the case of severe dehydration, you may have to visit the emergency room and be administered IV fluids for dehydration.

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, you should have more water in the day. If you indulge 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.

Many people don’t realise that they are thirsty. If you tend to forget to drink water and don’t feel thirsty often, you must keep a journal to note 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. So have a glass of water before and after a meal. This will not only help you remember to drink water but also help with any issues related to constipation.

How Can Dehydration Be Prevented During Pregnancy?

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

  • Drink enough water and drink slowly (and at 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.
  • You can even add a couple of slices of lemon, or a few pieces of watermelon in your glass of water for a different 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.

How Can Dehydration Be Prevented During Pregnancy?

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, having 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 (FAQs)

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, your muscles may 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 is a condition that can catch you unawares. So, 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. So stay hydrated and consult a doctor if you face any complications during this time.