Dry skin and lips, lightheadedness, or persistent thirst may indicate dehydration. Ignoring the signs of dehydration in pregnancy may negatively impact your health and that of your baby. Therefore, you should take steps to address the problem.
Keep reading this post to know the effects dehydration can have during pregnancy, how long it takes to recover, and the measures you need to adopt to avoid the problem.
What Causes Dehydration During Pregnancy?
Some of the common causes of dehydration during pregnancy are:
- Morning sickness: The condition appears during the first month and continues until the 14th or 16th week. The symptoms include nausea and vomiting that may disappear by the time you reach the second trimester. In some cases, women continue to have morning sickness beyond the second trimester. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) reports that more than 50% of pregnant women experience the symptoms of morning sickness.
The symptoms of morning sickness result in the loss of fluids and electrolytes from your body, causing dehydration. Moreover, nausea might not allow you to take fluids, making it harder for the body to regain the lost water (1).
- Severe morning sickness, also known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum: This condition is likely to happen in twin pregnancy (multifetal pregnancy). The symptoms, the same as those of morning sickness, remain throughout your pregnancy. Hyperemesis symptoms may also cause a severe loss of water and electrolytes. It could lead to fever, associated with nausea and vomiting, causing excessive sweating and dehydration (2).
- Diarrhea: Hormonal changes, dietary habits, and aversion to certain foods might lead to diarrhea, especially in the third trimester. This may also result in excessive loss of fluids and electrolytes (3).
Some other factors that increase the risk of dehydration are:
- Lack of enough fluids: Your water intake level may depend on your trimester, activity level, weight, age, climate, and season. You might be more susceptible to dehydration during the warmer seasons.
- Air travel: Air in the cabin contains little moisture, and it may cause dehydration in your body (4). You should try to stay hydrated by drinking water when traveling. Airline rules may not allow carrying water bottles, but water is always available on the flight. Tori Nauer, a mother-to-be and women empowerment coach, shares how she dealt with dehydration when traveling during pregnancy, “Even before becoming pregnant, plane travel always left me feeling dehydrated and dried out. By making a point to eat approximately every two hours and almost constantly sipping on water, juice, and (BYO) herbal tea, I had enough energy for myself and my baby to adjust to the somewhat uncomfortable environments we were moving through (i).”
- Humidity: Hot weather and humidity might make you sweat, thereby leading to dehydration.
- Vigorous exercise, especially in warm weather: This could make you sweat more, and when coupled with warm weather, could lead to dehydration.
- Fever: Body temperature that is higher than the normal could cause vomiting, loss of fluids, and pose a high risk of dehydration.
Signs And Symptoms Of Dehydration In Pregnancy
Once your body is depleted of water, it shows the symptoms and signs of being dehydrated. It is vital for you to recognize them (5).
- Thirst is the initial and the most unnoticed sign. Do not neglect if you are thirsty, listen to your body, and drink water. Maintain a routine of drinking water often, at least one glass an hour.
- Dizziness, vertigo, or lightheadedness, usually when standing, kneeling, or bending over. It happens due to low blood pressure because of dehydration.
- Headache, especially migraines, is another prominent symptom of dehydration.
- Decreased urination and dark-colored urine with a strong odor. Clear urine means you are hydrating yourself properly.
- Dry mouth, nose, and skin that has lost its elasticity.
- Swollen tongue and chapped lips.
- Vomiting and nausea, associated with abdominal pain and muscle cramps.
Severe dehydration symptoms could be
- Lack of concentration
- Constipation or infrequent bowel movements
- Urinary tract infections
Dehydration is a common problem that all of us experience. But could it lead to some serious complications during pregnancy?
What Are The Effects Of Dehydration During Pregnancy?
During the first trimester of pregnancy, dehydration might result in two risks:
Dehydration caused by morning sickness could lead to nausea, thus making the problem cyclic. When you feel nauseous, you do not feel like drinking more water and then get more nauseous. If a pregnant woman does not take enough fluids to avoid dehydration, she might have to be hospitalized for administering IV fluids (6).
During the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, dehydration might pose the risk of premature births. It is one of the reasons for premature contractions (7).
Treatment For Dehydration During Pregnancy
If you are experiencing dehydration symptoms, you could regain the lost fluids by consuming more water.
- Water, herbal tea, and decaffeinated coffee are good options.
- Fruit juices, soft drinks, milk, soups are acceptable but to a lesser extent than those above.
- Say no to alcoholic beverages.
How Much Water Should You Drink When Pregnant?
According to Liesel Teen, BSN, RN, the founder of Mommy Labor Nurse, “During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by approximately 50%, which means you need even more water to combat dehydration.” Thus, you need to drink eight to ten glasses of water daily (8).
The quantity may include the beverages you consume, but, ideally, your first option should be plain water. Fluids such as juice, milk, tea, and coffee contain water and contribute to your fluid intake, but they also give you extra calories.
Your body needs extra water to perform additional functions during pregnancy.
When To Call A Doctor?
If dehydration is mild, it could be treated at home. But, if the above remedies do not work and you start experiencing severe symptoms, you should see your healthcare provider without any delay.
Your healthcare provider may advise you to get hospitalized so that a comprehensive line of tests is conducted to understand the underlying cause. Intravenous therapy is then prescribed, which is likely to replenish your body with essential water and nutrients.
Dr. Alan R. Lindemann, MD, MS, an obstetrician and a former clinical associate professor at the University of North Dakota, says, “If you find that you are vomiting or can’t drink enough water or Pedialyte, you should either go to your doctor’s office or the emergency room for IV hydration (fluids) with balanced electrolyte solutions. Drinking enough water or balanced electrolyte solutions helps to increase your blood volume, which is important for your baby and you during pregnancy. Getting a liter or two of normal saline or lactated ringers IV (in your vein) can often help you feel better and mend most nausea and vomiting issues.”
Preventing Dehydration During Pregnancy
Fatigue caused due to dehydration might bring down the energy levels, making you feel dull and lethargic. To avoid this, make sure you drink enough water every day.
- Drinking a cup of water (150-180 ml), for every hour that you are awake, is an excellent way to get your daily quota of H2O.
- If you are finding it difficult to drink plain water, you may try adding a few slices of lemon, cranberry, watermelon, or orange to your everyday diet.
- Liquids such as soups, juices, and smoothies also are a part of the daily water requirement for the body. So, if you find drinking plain water boring, drink them instead.
“If nausea or vomiting is preventing you from getting an adequate amount of water, talk to your provider about medications that might help ease the symptoms and make water consumption more realistic,” says Teen
- Avoid caffeine-related products, processed fruit juices, and sodas as the ingredients might increase your urine output, causing dehydration.
- Take extra care to keep yourself hydrated when performing strenuous exercises or spending a long time in hot weather as you may experience heat intolerance leading to excessive sweating.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can dehydration affect the baby during pregnancy?
Dehydration during pregnancy can affect you and your baby. It can cause low amniotic fluid, affecting a baby’s development and cause neural tube defects due to lack of proper nutrition. It may also trigger preterm labor (9).
2. Does lack of sleep cause dehydration?
According to a 2018 study, inadequate or lack of sleep may lead to dehydration (10). Although the study was conducted on adults and not pregnant women, its results highlight the importance of quality sleep for optimum health.
3. Can dehydration cause the baby to move less?
According to Liesel, one of the side effects of dehydration in pregnancy is decreased amniotic fluid, also known as oligohydramnios. While most people with oligohydramnios don’t have noticeable symptoms, some might notice a decrease in fetal movement.
4. Can I have a miscarriage if I am dehydrated?
“There is no denying how vital water is to a developing and growing fetus, but there is a lack of research directly linking dehydration to miscarriage. It’s not exactly clear if a miscarriage can be caused by dehydration. The cause of about 60% of miscarriages is unknown,” observes Teen.
5. Can dehydration cause preeclampsia?
“Dehydration doesn’t cause preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, however, causes decreased blood volume and intravascular fluid (blood) concentration, resulting in the appearance of dehydration,” opines Dr. Lindemann.
The common signs of dehydration in pregnancy may include unusual thirst, dizziness, headaches, dry mouth, nose, and skin, and other symptoms. It can be caused by a variety of pregnancy-related symptoms, like morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum, as well as other variables like fever, insufficient fluids and water, and humidity. Restoring lost fluids in the body is a simple way to address dehydration and it is recommended to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every day. However, if you’re still having trouble staying hydrated, consult your doctor for help and advice.
Infographic: Effective Ways To Prevent Dehydration During Pregnancy
Dehydration during pregnancy is a common and potentially serious condition that can lead to various complications, such as preterm labor. Therefore, it is essential for expecting mothers to take steps to stay properly hydrated. So, look through the infographic below to learn some practical tips on preventing dehydration.
- Ignoring dehydration symptoms could harm the pregnant woman and the unborn child.
- Morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum, diarrhea, a lack of fluids, humidity, strenuous exercise, and fever are common causes of dehydration during pregnancy.
- The signs of dehydration include thirst, lightheadedness, dizziness, vertigo, dark-colored urine, headache, dry skin, swollen tongue, chapped lips, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping.
- Symptoms of severe dehydration include weakness, lack of focus, constipation, piles, and urinary tract infections.
- During the second and third trimesters, dehydration could increase the chance of premature birth.
- Dehydration causes the body to lose fluids. Thus, drinking water and other liquids like herbal tea, decaffeinated coffee, fruit juices, milk, soups, etc., can help replenish those fluids.
Personal Experience: Source
1. Morning sickness; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health (2017)
2. Hyperemesis gravidarum; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health (2018)
3. Diarrhea and Vomiting; University Health Service – University of Michigan
4. R Csorba and P Tsikouras; Air travel during pregnancy; Hippokratia (2017)
5. James L. Lewis; Dehydration; Merck Manuals
6. Common Discomforts During Pregnancy; University of Rochester Medical Center
7. Preterm (Early) Labor; UNM Hospitals
8. Kristen S. Montgomery; Nutrition Column An Update on Water Needs during Pregnancy and Beyond; J Perinat Educ (2002)
9. Dehydration During Pregnancy; American Pregnancy Association
10. Shorter sleep may cause dehydration; Harvard Health Publishing
11. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (Severe Nausea & Vomiting During Pregnancy); Cleveland Clinic