How Much Water Do I Need in Pregnancy?
A person can only live about 3 days without water. Thirst, the first sign of dehydration, can occur in just a few hours of low water intake. In less than 24 hours of less-than-ideal water intake, our urine starts to become yellow, more cloudy, higher in bacteria, our body’s cells start to dry out, our blood vessels become restricted, and our pulse begins to rise. If we have any added activity while already being dehydrated, we exacerbate the problem and start to see ill effects such as low energy, irritability, reduced bowel movements, headaches, higher pulse and blood pressure. It can take just as long as the dehydration has been occurring to re-hydrate. Dehydration is no joke, and one of the most common conditions seen in pregnancy and labor.
What causes dehydration?
- Low water intake, obviously 😉
- Low trace mineral intake (such as too many canned foods, dehydrated foods, or low dark-leafy greens, low fresh fruit intake, low unrefined mineral-rich salt intake)
- High carbohydrate intake (such as bread, pasta, crackers, starchy foods, cereals, grains and other low-nutrient foods)
- Dry food diet (any food that isn’t already well-hydrated when you eat it such as carbohydrate-heavy foods, sandwiches, processed or boxed foods…etc.)
- Illness, especially vomiting or diarrhea
- Coffee & Black Tea, in any amount (and decaf doesn't prevent this effect)
- Herbal diuretics and stimulants
- Drinking too much water in a short time
What are common signs of dehydration?
The following can be seen from early signs to late signs of dehydration, but are by no means the only signs of dehydration:
- Urine any darker than very pale yellow, even if it is only first thing in the morning (which is also a sign of a high toxin load, poor food choices, and stressed kidneys)
- Pulse above 80
- Less than 1 bowel movement a day (or if you “need” to take magnesium, fiber, or any other laxative supplements to go)
- Difficulty sleeping or feeling rested
- Lower Hemoglobin or Anemia
- Muscle aches or cramps, including an increase in contractions and preterm labor
Orally, we can only absorb a maximum of about 1 cup of water every 15 minutes. So, filling up a large glass or quart jar and chugging it when we remember isn’t going to benefit us or our baby. It’s just going to stimulate our kidneys and make us pee more (which gets harder as baby grows, especially in labor). We must space our water intake through fresh foods and drinking evenly through the day. Likewise, we retain more hydration when we have plenty of trace minerals and micronutrients, so plain water isn’t always the best for hydration. Adding berries and fresh herbs to your water, making an electrolyte drink, or buying an all-natural electrolyte drink mix, will improve overall hydration (and is usually very tasty). Fresh or frozen berry and cucumber infused water is my favorite way to stay hydrated.
If you’re showing signs of dehydration, or your midwife has encouraged you to increase your water intake, you can make a huge difference in just one hour. Make 1 quart of an electrolyte drink and set a timer. Drink 1 cup every 15 minutes for 1 hour and you’ll have the equivalent re-hydration to a bag of IV fluids (our next step for re-hydration therapy). Then, continue with drinking 1 cup of water every 30 minutes through the rest of the day (or in labor). If all dehydration symptoms subside and your urine color is light hay colored by morning, resume normal hydration. If not, repeat the 1 quart in an hour regimen.
If you want to confidently avoid IV fluids in labor, or oral fluids being pushed, remember that you need to start labor well hydrated and well nourished.
Your body was created to thrive and to heal when it is provided with balanced nourishment.
How well are you being nourished?
With a well-balanced diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, broths, and real whole foods, we only need about 1 cup of water per hour. The drier the foods are that we eat, the more water we need to first re-hydrate the food before we can even begin providing hydration to our body. If we are drinking water with a meal, the food absorbs the water first, and unless your food is hydrating on its own, not much of that water will make it to the rest of your cells or blood, so check your food choices and add more water as needed. With dry food, or when we are more active or if it is warmer weather (such as with gardening or labor) we should strive for at least 1 cup every half hour.
How well are you being hydrated?