Most pregnant women are likely to pay more attention to a lifestyle change when it comes down to their diet, making sure they eat healthy and exercise more than they did prior to pregnancy, but there is a chance that they may still overlook a key element in antenatal well-being; hydration.
Your body and your vital organs must have water to function properly. It is also essential for healthy blood cells. Adequate hydration is especially important during pregnancy and after birth as your body needs more water to cope with the demands of your changing body.
Water is needed to form amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby, support the increase in blood plasma volume and produce breast milk and essential for good lactation.
Adequate hydration can also help to alleviate common pregnancy-related conditions, such as constipation. Drinking enough water may go some way to helping prevent urinary tract infections. Dehydration during pregnancy can lead to many complications such as headaches, nausea, cramps, oedema and dizziness. This is especially important in the third trimester when dehydration can actually cause contractions that can trigger preterm labour.
The intake of water for pregnancy and breast feeding mothers should be around 300ml and 700ml higher than the recommended intake for non pregnant/breast feeding women. This is about three litres (ten to twelve glasses) of fluid every day.
The best way to tell if you are dehydrated is to check the colour of your urine. It should be pale or straw-coloured. If it is dark you need to drink more water.
Juices can count as part of your fluid intake, but remember they can also contain a lot of extra calories. Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, cola and teas shouldn’t be counted as part of your fluid intake because they’re diuretics, which will make you urinate more so you actually lose water.
The food standards agency advises that this is no more than 200mg caffeine/day- the equivalent to about two mugs of instant coffee, two mugs of tea or five 330ml cans of cola. Excessive intake of sugars sweetened beverages during the course of a full term pregnancy may lead to elevated blood sugar levels and extra weight gain during pregnancy. which can create an increased risk of gestational diabetes. Women who develop diabetes during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing blood pressure disorders such as pre-eclampsia and are more likely to deliver bigger babies and experience medical complications during delivery.
- Water is an excellent beverage choice for mums-to-be. It is natural and helps women to re-hydrate without consuming calories and sugars.
- Women should increase their total water intake by an extra 300ml/day during pregnancy and 700ml/day during breastfeeding.
- Water-rich foods such as soups, stews, yogurts, fruits and vegetables can help top up total water intake.
- Pregnant women should take frequent small drinks, particularly after the birth of their child when they are busy looking after their new baby.
- Women breastfeeding should make sure that they are getting enough fluids – try to remember to keep a glass of water on hand when you sit down to feed your baby.
- Women should reduce their intake of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- If you don’t like the tasty of water, try infusing it with slices of lemon, lime or even orange. You could also try a sprig of mint, grated ginger, fennel seeds or even a cardamon pod.