Dehydration during pregnancy

Dehydration can be problematic any time, but it’s especially concerning during pregnancy. Not only do you need more water than usual when you’re pregnant, but your baby needs water too. Water is essential to life. It plays a critical part in healthy fetal development. That means staying properly hydrated is a must.

Here are the symptoms of dehydration during pregnancy and how you can stay safe.

What causes dehydration?

Dehydration is the result of your body losing water more quickly than you can take it and other fluids in. The result is that your body can struggle to go about its normal functions. If you don’t replace the lost fluids, you become dehydrated.

During pregnancy, this is especially worrisome. Water is used to form the placenta, which passes nutrients to your growing baby. It’s also used in the amniotic sac. Dehydration during pregnancy can result in very serious complications, including:

  • neural tube defects
  • low amniotic fluid
  • premature labor
  • poor production of breast milk
  • birth defects

Your body is using water in greater amounts during your pregnancy. Dehydration is automatically a concern if you aren’t taking care to replace lost fluids.

If you’re dealing with morning sickness that makes it difficult to keep anything down, dehydration becomes even more likely. Vomiting can lead to a lack of fluids and electrolytes, plus the loss of stomach acid.

As you move further into your pregnancy, overheating can also become an issue, which is another precursor to dehydration. Other common causes of dehydration include:

  • vigorous exercise, particularly if the weather is warm
  • intense diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • excessive sweating
  • not drinking enough water

What are signs of dehydration during pregnancy?

When you become dehydrated, your body begins exhibiting certain signs. It’s important that you’re able to recognize them.

Maternal overheating can be a common sign of dehydration. If you aren’t drinking enough water, your body may have trouble regulating heat. This makes you prone to overheating.

Dark yellow urine is another cautionary sign. Clear urine means you are hydrating well.

Mild to moderate dehydration can also cause these symptoms:

  • dry, sticky mouth
  • sleepiness
  • feeling thirsty
  • decreased need to urinate
  • headache
  • constipation
  • dizziness

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, drink water, and rest if you can. It’s also a good idea to call your doctor and explain what you’re feeling.

During pregnancy, dehydration can also trigger Braxton-Hicks contractions. These are a tightening of the uterus that usually only lasts a minute or two. These practice contractions are most common in the third trimester, but you may feel them in the second trimester, too. If you’re noticing a lot of these kinds of contractions, it can be a sign that you aren’t properly hydrating.

Mild and even moderate dehydration can usually be managed and reversed by drinking water. But severe dehydration, especially during pregnancy, needs immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of severe dehydration include:

  • extreme thirst
  • excessively dry mouth, skin, and mucous membranes
  • irritability and confusion
  • little or no urine
  • very dark urine
  • sunken eyes
  • rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • low blood pressure

Also watch your skin. You may be dehydrated if your skin is dry and shriveled, lacking in elasticity, or if it’s pinched into a fold and doesn’t “bounce” back.

If any of these symptoms are present, you need medical care right away.

How to prevent dehydration during pregnancy

Preventing dehydration doesn’t have to be difficult. The best way to stay properly hydrated during your pregnancy and after is to drink plenty of water every day. Try to get at least eight to 12 glasses daily.

If you’re experiencing indigestion, try to drink your fluids between meals instead of drinking as you eat, which can make indigestion worse.

If you have morning sickness that’s causing you to vomit, try drinking plenty of fluids when you aren’t feeling nauseated. In cases of extreme morning sickness that make it impossible to keep any fluids down, speak with your doctor.

Avoid caffeine, which can increase your need to urinate. Water is ideal, but you can also drink milk, natural fruit juices, and soup.

If you aren’t replacing those fluids, it’s easy to become dehydrated. You should also be careful with any activities that cause overheating, like strenuous exercise. Even outdoor time in an excessively hot or humid environment can cause overheating.

Next steps

Anyone can become dehydrated, but when you’re pregnant, you’re at a greater risk. The best way to avoid mild, moderate, and severe dehydration is to focus on hydration. Make it a habit to bring a water bottle with you when you’re away from home. Try to keep track of how much you’re drinking. As long as you’re getting the right amounts of water every day, your body and your developing baby will have what they need.

You asked, we answered

  • Why is it so important to stay hydrated during pregnancy?
  • Maintaining proper fluid intake is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle, particularly for pregnant women. Women require even more fluid intake while they are pregnant, so it’s important for them to make that extra special effort to keep hydrated. Staying properly hydrated greatly improves chances of having a safe and normal pregnancy and a healthy baby after delivery.

    - Mike Weber, MD
Jessica