A pregnant friend called me from the playground where she and her two year-old were playing in the 90 degree sweltering heat of Washington DC. She was having contractions. It was only 36 weeks, what should she do? They didn’t seem to be going away.
Have you had any water lately? I asked. No, she said. Maybe a diet soda some several hours prior. I said, get home into the cool and drink water or a water drink with electrolytes like Gatorade. She did this and the contractions stopped.
She was surprised to learn that dehydration is a leading cause of premature labor. And lots of women are. I know I was. And honestly, I’m shocked I didn’t go into labor a number of times during my two pregnancies. I suck at drinking water. I literally force myself to do it.
I don’t know why, it’s the silliest thing. It’s not because I had to pee every five minutes– an understandable reason some women decide to pass on the constant beverage consumption. By my second pregnancy, I knew myself well enough that I’d order all manner of ridiculous over-priced, environmentally wasteful bottled water beverages to entice me: flavored seltzer, vitamin drinks, you know what I’m talking about. Pathetic.
And I became even more thirsty breastfeeding. In fact, I’d get so parched I’d even succumb to tap water on occasion.
There’s some debate whether regular humans need the full 8-12 glasses of water a day, but it seems pregnant humans do need this kind of hydration. In addition to the basic fact that dehydration is not good for anyone, being a well-hydrated expectant and new mother means:
- You have some assistance maintaining a 40-50% increase in blood volume.
- It may seem counter-intuitive but you reduce the severity of edema, a common pregnancy-induced swelling.
- Not as much constipation, which is no fun at all ever but especially during late pregnancy and postpartum.
- You’re replenishing the fluids used for making (and serving) milk.
- You’ll have a more efficient labor– sure dehydration can cause contractions but they’re not very efficient contractions. Drinking water is fine for this, no need for an IV just to hydrate.
If you find you’re thirsty, they say this means you’re already at a deficit. Drinking small amounts of water or non-sugary, non-caffeinated drinks like coconut water– also full of potassium!–is recommended. Also, lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and other water-containing foods really makes a difference- Gazpacho! Grapefruit! You probably know this but sodas and fruit juice are not recommended in large quantities as sodas contain sodium (dehydrating) and juice is full of sugar.
Really what we need is just good old fashioned water. Or, in my pathetic case, a “water product.”
photo:Greg Riegler Photography/Flickr