Importance of hydration before, during and after pregnancy
Hydration is important at every stage of the pregnancy journey. The amount of fluid needed varies between different pregnant women, but it is important to stay hydrated. By the time you feel thirsty you are already a little dehydrated. Your urine colour may be an indicator of your hydration level. It should be a pale straw colour and if it is darker than this then you may need to drink a bit more fluid.
Water is an often forgotten yet essential, natural, calorie free nutrient, making up approximately two-thirds of our body weight with fluid demands increasing considerably during pregnancy. Hence it is a good idea for women to establish healthy hydration habits pre-pregnancy. As a guide, they should aim to consume approximately 2 litres of fluid per day, ideally with 70–80 per cent coming from drinks and the rest from fluid rich foods such as vegetables. melon, soups, stews and fruit.
Adequate hydration is especially important during and after pregnancy to help meet the physiological changes that occur. During pregnancy, water requirements increase by approximately 300ml per day, to form amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby, support the increased volume of blood circulating in the body, build new tissue, enhance digestion, and flush out wastes. This increase equates to drinking approximately 1–2 glasses of water extra each day. Drinking enough water may help expel bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections. It can also help prevent constipation which is a common symptom in the first and second trimesters, potentially caused by changing hormone levels that relax the bowel. Pregnant women should try to drink little and often, as consuming larger volumes can be uncomfortable due to bladder expansion and growth of the baby in the womb.
More than half of pregnant women suffer from nausea and vomiting, typically between weeks 4 and 16, while 1 in 200 suffer from the medical condition hyperemesis gravidarum. Such vomiting in the early stages of pregnancy can lead to a loss of fluid. And in the case of the acute vomiting that occurs with the hyperemesis gravidarum, this can cause dehydration and weight loss.
To reduce the risk of excess sugar consumption and complications such as gestational diabetes, it is advisable for pregnant women to swap sugary drinks for water or sugar-free drinks and to limit fruit juice and smoothies to a total of 150ml a day (one small glass). And for safety reasons, to avoid long-term harm to the baby, they should avoid consuming alcohol and caffeinated drinks altogether.
Post-pregnancy, the daily water requirement for women who are breastfeeding is approximately 700ml higher than usual. This approximates to the amount of fluid secreted in breast milk and in practical terms equates to a requirement for 3–4 extra glasses of water each day during breastfeeding.
For mums who are not breastfeeding and indeed both parents, looking after a new baby is a busy and tiring time, so it is important to remain hydrated by drinking regularly.