But water takes on a new level of importance during pregnancy and labor. In fact, pregnancy just might make you look at water in a completely different light. I know that water played a highly significant role in my own labor experience, and I don’t think enough pregnant women recognize its incredible natural properties.
From transporting nutrients to preventing preterm contractions to easing your labor experience, take a look at the surprising role of water in these three trimesters:
Delivering Nutrients 1 of 11Although the majority of our body weight is made up of water, we can't naturally reproduce water — meaning we need to actively replenish ourselves. So when we don't drink enough water, our bodies can't function at their best — including transporting nutrients and oxygen to cells (which growing fetuses rely on), and absorbing what we (and fetuses) need from water-soluble vitamins. Dehydration doesn't only harm your own body, but it can potentially affect your baby as well, putting strain on his/her tiny liver and kidneys.
Source: The Journal of Perinatal Education
Flusssshhh 2 of 11
Morning Sickness 3 of 11Although some pregnant women have a real difficulty keeping anything down — including water — you can help the normal pregnancy queasiness by drinking more fluids. Mayo Clinic recommends keeping a bottle of water on you and sipping throughout the day.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Photo: Flickr/Greg Riegler Photography
Amniotic Fluid 4 of 11Your body will start retaining more water as your amniotic fluid and blood supply increases, so you'll need to drink more water as your pregnancy progresses. In fact, your third-trimester fetus will be swimming around in a quart of amniotic fluid, which is replaced every three hours — and a low amount of amniotic fluid can be dangerous for your baby. Every source we checked said that pregnant women should be diligent about drinking 8 - 10 glasses (8 to 12 ounces each) of water a day. Also be conscious of eating water-rich foods (fruit, vegetable soups, etc.) rather than sodium-heavy foods to reach your daily water goal.
Keeping You Comfy 5 of 11
Reduce Swelling 6 of 11It might seem counterproductive, but one of the best ways to reduce your water retention is to actually drink more water. Drinking fluids will help your kidneys function better, which will keep excess fluids moving (away from your ankles).
Source: Peg Plumbo, certified nurse-midwife, for iVillage
Photo: Flickr/Shutter Daddy
Preterm Contractions 7 of 11Preterm labor: two of the worst words for a pregnant woman. Although being dehydrated might not make you deliver early (although it's the leading cause of preterm labor), it's definitely a cause for premature contractions — which is scary and uncomfortable.
Source: American Pregnancy Association
Fatigue 8 of 11
Potential Problems 9 of 11This isn't meant to scare you, because your water supply might be completely fine. But if there's any cause for concern — maybe your city/town water has a high level of chlorine or even traces of lead — there's never a better time to filter your water for potentially dangerous contaminates that could damage your fetus.
Photo: Flickr: 96dpi
Water Aerobics 10 of 11
Water in Labor 11 of 11
One of the biggest shocks during my natural labor was my newfound appreciation for water. Even though I wasn't immersed in water until the very end, just spraying hot water on my stomach in the shower was the most amazing natural pain reliever. And then when I finally sunk into my birth center's (sterilized, filtered) birthing tub, I immediately wondered why every laboring woman didn't do this. It was amazing.
There are more benefits to laboring in water, beyond the soothing, relaxing properties. The buoyancy of water not only helps us feel lighter and unrestricted, but it's believed to promote better blood circulation, more efficient uterine contractions, and more oxygen to the uterine muscles and baby. It can also help the perineum area relax and become more elastic — meaning it might help prevent tears. And when it comes to your baby, it's believed to be a less shocking birth experience, considering your baby is coming from a water-filled amniotic sac to a water-filled tub, and then right to your arms.
Source: American Pregnancy Association
Photo: Sarah Jones Midwifery Services (+ more water birth info to read)
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Read more of Michelle’s writing at Early Mama.