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The Effects of Dehydration in Pregnant Women on the Baby

author image Christine St. Laurent
Christine St. Laurent holds a Master of Science in kinesiology from James Madison University. She has worked in hospital, university, sports performance and spa-based fitness and wellness centers as a personal trainer, program leader and group fitness instructor. St. Laurent has also taught college-level courses in exercise science. She is the owner of a personal-training and group-exercise studio in Manchester, Conn.
The Effects of Dehydration in Pregnant Women on the Baby
You may need to drink eight to 12 glasses of water each day during pregnancy. Photo Credit Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Most pregnant women should drink eight to 12 8-oz. glasses of water each day, but this amount can vary among individuals. During pregnancy, your body relies on water for additional functions, and not getting enough water can have negative effects on your growing baby. In the early stages of pregnancy, your blood volume expands significantly to supply your baby and the placenta. Water composes the majority of this blood content in the form of plasma. Your baby's amniotic fluid is initially formed from water you drink as well. Symptoms of morning sickness such as vomiting can make you more vulnerable to dehydration.

Heat Regulation

Dehydration can lead to maternal overheating. Water aids in heat regulation for all individuals, but it becomes especially important during pregnancy. Overheating becomes easier during pregnancy because your body is not able to rid itself of heat as easily. In an effort to compensate for this, your body may sweat sooner and more, which means you're also losing extra water. If your temperature increases to 102 degrees or higher, your baby can experience overheating as well. If this happens in early pregnancy, it can lead to neural tube defects.

Low Amniotic Fluid

While there are a variety of potential causes for developing low amniotic fluid, maternal dehydration could be a possible culprit. Amniotic fluid serves as your baby's support system. It provides protection and cushioning to your unborn child and assists with the development of many of his systems. Low amniotic fluid in the early stages of pregnancy can lead to the development of birth defects or even miscarriage. In the later stages of pregnancy it can cause preterm birth, impaired growth of your baby or labor complications such as a required cesarean delivery or compression of the umbilical cord.

Other Risks

In addition to the possible maternal risks of fatigue, constipation and inadquate breast milk production, dehydration may lead to other health concerns for your baby. Water plays vital roles in removing waste and in liver and kidney functions for both you and your baby. Dehydration could lead to in adequate removal of waste substances from your baby's cells and place strain on his liver and kidneys. Dehydration in the third trimester can actually trigger uterine contractions and lead to preterm labor.

Special Considerations

In addition to drinking enough water during pregnancy, there are other factors you should consider to avoid dehydration. Limit drinks with lots of sugar or caffeine because they can actually serve as diuretics. Exercising or overexerting in hot or humid environments can greatly increase your risk of overheating, which can lead to dehydration. When deviating from your regular routine, such as when traveling, be sure stay hydrated and have water or other fluids easily accessible.

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