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Growing up as an athlete, the importance of being hydrated for competition was always emphasized. So I wasn’t that surprised when my midwives began to talk with me of the importance of being hydrated through labour. I mean, giving birth really is an athletic, marathon endeavor! Having experienced it twice now I can attest to its physically draining nature and need to maintain a “performance state” for a long period of time!
Water is the primary ingredient in our body composition; on average 50-65% for an adult. Interestingly enough, infants have an even higher rate at 75%-78% water composition! When you are pregnant your blood volume increases up to 50%. This includes bringing your baby all the oxygen and nutrition they need through the placenta development. We need the extra hydration to keep up with this new demand on the body.
Throughout your pregnancy maintaining hydration is important. Achieving that 8-12 8oz glasses of water a day is recommended. This can be a challenge when one may not be inclined to reach for the liter of water when they are already feeling swollen, bloated, full and like a frequent flyer when it comes to trips to the bathroom. However, being hydrated will aid in energy levels, skin moisture and suppleness (cough, cough… stretch marks), reduces constipation, and cleanses the body by removing toxins.
In your first and second trimester the main implication of being dehydrated is that there can be a reduced amount of amniotic fluid for the baby. When there is a significant lack of amniotic fluid baby isn’t able to float. They may end up laying against the uterus and this can cause deformities in babies physical development.
As you approach the end of your pregnancy and labour, being hydrated becomes even more important as you will need a higher level of energy and stamina for labour. Ensuring your electrolyte stores are toped up is another factor.
One of the most critical reasons to maintain hydration though is to avoid preterm labour (labor that begins prior to 37 weeks). When you are dehydrated, your blood volume decreases, and the concentration of oxytocin therefore increase. Oxytocin is a natural hormone that causes the uterus to contract: a good thing when you are full term and ready to deliver, not so good when your baby still needs its final weeks to develop. Staying hydrated will increase your bllod volume preventing the onset of premature labour.
Ideal hydration can be achieved through consuming: water, herbal teas (mind your caffeine), soups, broths, juices (be sugar conscious), smoothies, fruits and vegetables (oranges, grapes, melons, cucumbers and celery are particularly high in water).
During labour, sucking on ice chips or eating frozen fruit can be an easy and enjoyable way to keep on top of your hydration levels. Another great strategy that my midwife introduced me to is preparing a healthy homemade “labour-aide” drink. Freezing a couple ice-cube trays and then filling up a zip lock bag in the freezer made for a very easy go to, throughout both my labours.
Hydration becomes an even larger medical topic if a mother is opting for an epidural. Having plenty of fluids prior to anesthesia can lessen the chance of a drop in blood pressure and aid in post delivery recovery.
But let's be clear! I say it is an athletic endeavor, so you plan to just drink some of those “sports drinks”. Not a good idea! There is plenty of research out there these days on the not so glamorous side of these highly marketed beverages, particularly when the sugar content is assessed.
Here are a couple easy, quick, natural recipes to get you through from Mommypotamus:! The key points are to include water, an electrolyte source and some natural flavor!