Stillwater Healing Arts Clinic
By Janelle Boyington, RM, CPM
Dehydration during pregnancy, while easily prevented, can sneak up on even the most cautious mommy. All of our major systems depend on water for survival; energy and mood are directly affected by hydration. We are, after all, 50 to 60% water. Blood is 83% water
where it circulates oxygen and nutrients, making them available to your cells, and then carries waste out of the body. The brain is 70% water and even mild dehydration can leave one feeling tired or out of sorts. Muscles are 75% water and fluid helps them contract and relax, inadequate supply causes them strain sensed as cramps.
Dehydration happens when your body eliminates more water than you replace. When you don’t drink enough water to keep up, your body simply cannot do its job properly.
Human beings are delicate when it comes to water need.
During the second and third trimester of pregnancy, dehydration can cause blood volume to decrease, the level of oxytocin to increase (the hormone responsible for contractions), and can lead to preterm labor. With low hydration body temperature rises and muscle cramps increase, both exacerbating uterine contractibility. However, early preterm labor can often be halted by therapeutic rehydration.
Some of the additional risks of dehydration during pregnancy include an increase in morning sickness; intensified Braxton Hicks/toning contractions; physical deformities for baby; psychological problems for baby; high blood pressure and cardiac problems for baby and mother. It’s no joke, water as simple as it seems is incredibly important to every aspect of our life and to growing a life.
Thirst is the first sign of dehydration and the most commonly ignored. Listen to your body: if you’re thirsty, your body is trying to tell you something. You should try to maintain a schedule of drinking at least one glass of water an hour (more if needed). Dehydration may lead to feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, or vertigo, especially when standing up, bending over, or kneeling. This dizziness symptom is due to low blood pressure caused by dehydration. Lack of hydration is a major cause of headaches, particularly migraines, in pregnant moms and non-pregnant folks alike. Don’t dismiss your headaches as hormonal (although, those can be a contributor). Other signs and symptoms of dehydration include dark yellow urine or that with a strong odor; dry mouth and nose, and chapped lips; skin that has lost its elasticity or is very dry; nausea and vomiting; or weakness. These are symptoms of already being dehydrated and should be treated seriously and quickly.
Living cells need electrolytes, specifically potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, and chromium. These maintain water balance and optimal nerve function. Rehydration can be provided with all natural electrolyte replacement drinks such as ReCharge by Knudsen or ElectroMix packets by the makers of Emergen-C; coconut water is isotonic to blood plasma and thus the best naturally occurring electrolyte replacement drink. Over the course of a few hours, one to one and a half liters should elicit a change in dehydration symptoms. If not, pregnant women should contact their midwife or physician.
As you might have guessed, the single best dehydration prevention is: drink your water! The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink two and a third liters (about 10, 8 oz. cups) of fluids daily, and women who breast-feed consume a little over three liters (about 13, 8 oz. cups) of fluid a day. Take into account our dry climate and that amniotic fluid is replaced at the rate of approximately one cup per hour, Colorado mamas need even more fluids per day! Stay away from caffeine, sodas, and processed fruit juices as these don’t rehydrate you, but actually act as diuretics. If you have a hard time stomaching “plain water,” try adding a splash of lemon, lime, cranberry, or other natural flavoring. Herbal teas, infusions, and fresh juices are a great source of fluids, too. Drink up ladies! L’chaim (a Hebrew toast meaning “to life”).
Janelle Boyington, RM, CPM is a midwife providing homebirths, well-woman care, and lactation services; seeing patients at Stillwater Healing Arts Clinic, here in Lyons.