The Importance of Hydration in Pregnancy and Labour
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. Both pregnancy and giving birth are athletic, marathon endeavors! Having experienced them twice now, I can attest to their physically draining nature and the need to maintain a “performance state” for a long period of time! When you look at it that way, hydration in pregnancy and labour makes sense!
How does water help?
Water is the primary ingredient in our body composition; on average, 50-65% for an adult. Interestingly enough, infants have an even higher water composition of 75%-78%! When you are pregnant your blood volume increases up to 50% to bring 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.
Achieving that recommended eight to twelve 8oz glasses of water a day can be a challenge when you're already feeling swollen, bloated, full, and are a frequent flyer when it comes to trips to the bathroom. However, being hydrated will aid in energy levels, skin moisture and suppleness (ahem…stretch marks), reduces constipation, and cleanses the body of 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, there can be problems with bone, muscle, lung, and digestive system development and miscarriage risk is increased. Furthermore, amniotic fluid cushions baby from bumps and protects him from infection.
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 (calcium, potassium, and magnesium) are topped up and prepared for system regulation is important for this reason.
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 blood volume and help prevent the onset of premature labour.
Keeping the fluids coming
You don't have to rely solely on the discipline of keeping your water bottle filled. 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. Avoid those "sports drinks" as the sugar and artficial sweeteners are not beneficial.
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-aid” 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. (Ingesting anything prior to general anesthesia may be discouraged, however.)
Healthy drinks to keep you hydrated
Here are a couple easy, quick, natural recipes to keep you hydrated (and interested!) from Mommypotamus! On top of the fluid, the coconut water and sea salt contain an electrolyte source, and the tasty, natural flavor will encourage you to keep on sipping!
Coconut & Lime Labor-Aid
- 3 cups coconut water
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime (or lemon) juice
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup
- 4 cups filtered water
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup raw honey
*Originally published September 23, 2016