Dr. Greene

What You Need to Know About Dehydration During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

Did you know that dehydration can result from a loss of only 1% - 2% of your body's ideal water content? Water is vital to good health, and dehydration can creep up on you quickly, causing potentially serious side effects - especially when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. You are much more vulnerable during this unique phase of life.
  • During pregnancy, your ideal fluid volume increases significantly to provide your baby with nutrients.
  • Morning sickness that leads to nausea and vomiting causes fluid loss and increases chances for dehydration. The risk is often compounded by that fact that the feeling of nausea reduces the desire to drink more.
  • Breastfeeding, by its very nature, is a loss of fluid from Mom’s body.
To protect your health and that of your developing baby, here’s what you need to know about dehydration during pregnancy and nursing.

Risks of dehydration during pregnancy and breastfeeding

The complications associated with severe dehydration during pregnancy are serious.
  • Dehydration during the first trimester of pregnancy can result in inadequate amniotic fluid for your baby. In extreme cases, the fetus often ends up resting directly on the wall of the uterus, which can compromise development.
  • Dehydration during the second or third trimesters stresses mom’s body and can lead to muscle cramping, Braxton Hicks, and even premature labor.

    The risks associated with dehydration during breastfeeding aren’t quite as severe (in most cases), but they are risks nonetheless.
  • The nutritional content of your milk can change if you’re dehydrated.
  • Your milk supply might decrease, but only with significant dehydration. If severe dehydration persists and your baby’s not taking in enough fluids, he could become dehydrated as well.
Symptoms of dehydration during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Some of these symptoms may be obvious and some may go unnoticed since they’re so common, but be sure to be attentive to whether you might be dehydrated. As mentioned above, severe dehydration can creep up on a pregnant or new mom very quickly. There may be very little warning before things spiral out of control.
  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Chapped lips
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting

How to prevent dehydration during pregnancy and breastfeeding

1. Log your liquids. Staying hydrated may seem simple. You just drink more, right? But, our modern, hectic lifestyles combined with the mental “fog” that naturally accompanies hormonal changes and lack of sleep often leads to dehydration from simply forgetting to drink. Track how much you’re drinking by keeping a dry-erase board or chalkboard in your kitchen or using a tracking app (I love Lift as a simple app for phone or web that’s great for setting goals of any kind and tracking your progress)                        
                                                                                                                                                                           2. Drink enough for you. A common recommendation is to drink at least eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but everyone has unique needs. How do you know if you’re getting enough? If your urine is pale yellow, then you’re likely getting enough fluids. If your urine is a dark, concentrated yellow, then you likely need to be drinking more. NOTE: Over-hydration can be dangerous, too, and potentially lead to water intoxication. This is not  common, but can happen when someone loses a lot of electrolytes through prolonged sweating (or morning sickness) and tries to replenish with lots of plain water, or if someone keeps taking in more liquid than their kidneys can excrete – about a liter an hour.
                                                                                                                                  BF-mom-and-nursing-pillow-(2).jpg                                     3. Mix it up. Water is wonderful for maintaining hydration, but feel free to mix it up if you’re dealing with nausea or just find it difficult to drink enough because you’re used to different types of beverages. Try making flavored waters using your favorite fruits and herbs. Simply fill a pitcher with water, add some slices of your favorite ingredients, and let it sit overnight. Lemon-cucumber, peach-basil, watermelon-mint, and experiment to see what you like! (Try homemade popsicles, too!) Coconut water is also an excellent option for naturally replenishing electrolytes. Minimize drinks full of sugar, artificial sweeteners, empty calories and caffeine. (Coffee or tea with little or no caffeine can be fine)
                                                                                                                                                                        4. Seek help. If you have a hard time keeping hydrated (especially if you’re pregnant and suffering from nausea and/or vomiting), talk to your ob/gyn. Sometimes pharmaceuticals are required to help relieve symptoms and prevent dehydration. For severe symptoms, IV fluid treatment or hospitalization may be required.
                                                                                                                                                             Dehydration during pregnancy and nursing is quite common, but it’s also easily avoided. Following these simple tips will go a long way towards protecting you and that lovely little miracle of yours!

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Dr. Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing pediatrician, author, speaker, children’s health advocate, and father of four.

Dr. Levine

Dr. Alanna Levine is a New York based pediatrician and a mom of two children.