Staying hydrated is very important, whether you are pregnant or not. The specific amount you need to drink varies from person to person so, naturally, it will differ from pregnant woman to pregnant woman too. But it is still very important to stay hydrated throughout the day.
The NHS Eatwell Guide states that we should be drinking around 6-8 cups of fluid a day, which equates to approximately 2 litres. There is no advice on how much you should be drinking whilst pregnant in UK, but the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states
For pregnant women the same water intake as in non-pregnant women plus an increase in proportion to the increase in energy intake (300ml/day) is proposed.
Which, in layman’s terms, means that they advise pregnant women to drink around 2.3 litres a day – a little bit extra than a non-pregnant person. They advise drinking a little bit more than this when breastfeeding or lactating too – approximately 2.7 litres.
The importance of hydration during pregnancy
You and your baby need water. Water is needed to help produce the amniotic fluid surrounding and protecting your body as well as to compensate for the increase in blood volume. Water is also important to help your body produce the extra tissue needed to grow a baby, carry nutrients to your baby, help with digestion, and to help flush the waste and toxins from you – including the waste produced by your growing baby.
So, whilst it is important to stay hydrated when you’re not pregnant, it is equally or perhaps more important to stay hydrated whilst pregnant too.
If you are exercising or during hot weather, you should increase your fluid intake.
Benefits of staying hydrated during pregnancy
Staying adequately hydrated has numerous benefits when not pregnant. But, whilst pregnant ensuring you’re well hydrated has some added bonuses too, such as:
- Keeping you cool and preventing overheating
- Increasing energy levels
- Decreasing the risk of urinary tract infections
- Decreasing the risk of preterm labour or preterm birth
- Reducing swelling
- Softening skin
- Decreasing constipation and thus haemorrhoids
Dangers of dehydration
Dehydration, especially if it goes untreated, can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications such as heat exhaustion, heatstroke, heat cramps, seizures from a lack of electrolytes, low blood volume, and can result in kidney failure or even a coma.
For pregnant women, the list increases to include a reduction in amniotic fluid (meaning your baby is less protected), swelling, kidney stones, and can lead to urinary tract infections which can, in turn, lead to preterm labour and birth. Serious dehydration whilst pregnant can also lead to birth defects.
So, it is clear why it is so incredibly important to stay hydrated, especially whilst pregnant – and it is even more important to be well hydrated when it is hot or when you are exercising.
How to tell if you are dehydrated
Ideally, you should be consuming enough fluids so that you prevent yourself from becoming dehydrated. But there are some clear signs that you aren’t drinking enough fluids.
If you are well hydrated your urine will be a pale straw colour (light yellow) or colourless. If your urine is a darker yellow and if it smells strong, this is a sign that you are not drinking enough fluids.
Other signs of dehydration include:
- Feeling thirsty (it might be stating the obvious but if you feel thirsty – drink!)
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Dry mouth, lips, and eyes
- Urinating very little – i.e., less than four times a day
- Feeling tired
- Dry skin
If you feel any of the above signs or your wee is darker than a pale straw colour, then up your intake of fluids to ensure you become hydrated enough.
How much water should I be drinking whilst pregnant?
As stated above, there is no official guidelines for how much fluid you should be drinking whilst pregnant in the UK other than the recommended guidelines for general fluid consumption of around 2 litres a day. But, in Europe, it is recommended that you drink a little extra than that, around 2.3 litres a day, to account for the increase in energy consumption during pregnancy.
So, that’s 2.3 litres or 8-12 cups of fluids a day.
Note that the advice usually says fluids rather than restricting it to simply water. Which means that water, low-fat milks, low-sugar or sugar-free drinks, tea and coffee all count towards your fluid intake. Fruit juice and smoothies can also count but it is worth limiting these as they contain natural sugars that damage teeth over time. During pregnancy you are at increased risk of developing teeth and gum problems, so it is worth keeping extra sugar or anything else that could cause damage to your teeth and gums, such as fizzy drinks, to a minimum.
Obviously, water is the best way to stay hydrated and should form most of your fluid intake, and it is advised to limit your caffeine intake whilst pregnant too.
The best way to stay hydrated and ensure you are drinking the recommended volume of fluids each day is to carry a large water bottle with you and drink little and often – we’d suggest getting a 1 litre water bottle, preferably one with volume markings so you can track how much you’ve drank so far. If you have a litre water bottle, you only need to fill it up twice (and a little bit) – once in the morning and then again when you’ve drank the contents. If you make sure it is within easy reach wherever you are, you are much more likely to drink from it regularly. If you’re really struggling, set an alarm for every hour to remind you to have a drink. And remember to drink more if it’s a hot, sunny day or you’ve been exercising.
If you feel like you’re struggling to maintain adequate hydration levels or you’ve become too dehydrated for whatever reason, you can purchase rehydration sachets or tablets from most supermarkets or pharmacies that you can mix with water to boost your hydration level. Sports drinks such as Lucozade sport are also good because they can help you replenish electrolytes you may have lost.
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