Hydration is an area that tends to be overlooked while pregnant and after pregnancy. The Natural Hydration Council’s Hydration for Pregnancy and Motherhood fact sheet, written by Dr Emma Derbyshire, public health nutritionist and advisor to the Natural Hydration Council, highlights the importance of adequate hydration during and after pregnancy
Pregnancy is an exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking time when we face the unknown experience of motherhood and watch the profound changes our bodies undergo in preparation for the birth of a child.
For many women, early pregnancy is a time of reappraisal of behaviour, nutrition and lifestyle to ensure that their unborn child has the best and healthiest start in life. Most pregnant women are likely to pay more attention to living healthily and eating a healthy diet than they did prior to pregnancy, but there is a chance that they may still overlook a key element in antenatal well-being; hydration.
Adequate hydration is especially important during and after pregnancy to help meet the physiological changes that occur during these important phases of the life-cycle. Water is needed to form amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby, support the increase in blood plasma volume and produce breast milk. Also, in the early stages of pregnancy vomiting can lead to fluid losses. In some cases hyperemisis gravidarium, a medical condition where pregnant women experience acute vomiting has been found to cause dehydration symptoms and weight loss.1 Women who cannot keep water down should come into hospital.
- Whilst pregnant women can meet their body’s requirements from other drinks, water is one of the healthiest ways to hydrate as it has no calories, sugar or caffeine.
- Women should aim to increase their total water intakes by an extra 300ml/day during pregnancy over and above the 2000ml/day (2 litres) of total water intake recommended by EFSA26.
- Women breastfeeding should make sure that they are getting enough fluids, and should aim to increase their total water intake by an extra 700ml/day during breastfeeding over the 2000ml/day (2 litres) of total water intake recommended by EFSA27. Try to remember to keep a glass of water on hand when you sit down to feed your baby, whether from breast or bottle.
- Foods can also contribute to your daily water intake. Those with a high water content; for example, melon, soups, stews, fruit and vegetables, will make the greatest contribution.
- Pregnant women should try to drink water little and often, as drinking large volumes of water at any one time (and particularly before bedtime) may be uncomfortable for a mother-to-be due to bladder expansion and foetal growth, especially in the latter half of pregnancy as bladder capacity is impacted.
- Drinking plenty of water can help relieve the symptoms of constipation, which around 32 per cent of pregnant women are affected by, especially during the first and second trimesters28.
- If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the Department of Health advises drinking no alcohol at all as this can lead to long-term harm to your baby29.
- Limit the amount of caffeine you drink during pregnancy. The Department of Health advises that during pregnancy women shouldn’t consume more than about two standard mugs of instant coffee or two standard mugs of tea30. Equally, pregnant women should be cautious of certain herbal teas that can contain high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (plant chemicals produced to stave off insects)23. Borage leaf and comfrey tea have been found to contain these.
This article was produced using excerpts from the Natural Hydration Council’s Hydration for Pregnancy and Motherhood fact sheet, courtesy of the Natural Hydration Council. Visit http://www.naturalhydrationcouncil.org.uk/hydration-facts/fact-sheets/
- 1. Ducarme G & Dochez V (2015) Hyperemesis gravidarium: a review. Presse Med 44(12 Pt 1): 1126–34.
- 23. Mädge I et al. (2015) Pyrrolizidine alkaloids in herbal teas for infants, pregnant or lactating women. Food Chem187:491–8.
- 26. EFSA (2010) Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for water. EFSA Journal 8(3):1459.
- 27. EFSA (2010) Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for water. EFSA Journal 8(3):1459.
- 28. Derbyshire EJ et al. (2007) Changes in bowel function: pregnancy and the puerperium. Dig Dis Sci 52(2):324–8.
- 29. Department of Health (2016) UK Chief Medical Officers’ Alcohol Guidelines Review Summary of the proposed new guidelines. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/545937/UK_CMOs__report.pdf
- 30. NHS Choices (2015) Should I limit caffeine during pregnancy? Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/limit-caffeine-during-pregnancy.aspx?CategoryID=54&SubCategoryID=216