Fluids: Essential for life
A huge proportion of the human body is made up of water. It keeps our complex systems working properly, while helping us absorb nutrients and flush out toxins1.
During pregnancy, the increased demands on your body mean you need more water than usual to meet these increased requirements and avoid dehydration2.
Understanding why you and your baby need a good supply of water can provide the motivation you need to put up with the extra toilet trips that inevitably result.
Water and your pregnant body
Some of the most crucial support systems for your baby involve a significant amount of water. For a start, your blood volume that supplies their oxygen, for instance, increases by 50%3. The amniotic fluid, which provides nourishment and cushioning for your baby while supporting their growth, is also made up of mostly water4.
Getting sufficient fluids each day will help to maintain these life-sustaining systems, while stopping you becoming dehydrated.
“Staying hydrated during pregnancy is important for your own health and to maintain the vital fluids, such as blood and amniotic fluid, that support your baby.”
In combination with a diet rich in fibre, fluids can help reduce your likelihood of constipation, and the piles (haemorrhoids) that sometimes come along with it5.
When you can’t keep water down
If you’re having trouble keeping fluids down due to morning sickness or a stomach upset, it’s important to continue to try sipping fluids regularly. Even small amounts add up and can lower your risk of becoming dehydrated.
In prolonged cases, let your GP or midwife know. They may prescribe something to ease your sickness or, in extreme cases, admit you to hospital to receive fluids through an IV drip.
“Even if you can’t tolerate food due to morning sickness, you should still drink plenty of fluids. Why not try adding a few mint leaves or a squeeze of lemon to your glass of water?”
When you start breastfeeding, how much more fluid will you need each day?
What and how much to drink when pregnant
Although your need for water increases during pregnancy, there is no single recommended amount because every person is different. Your body weight, body fat level and activity level all come into play6.
The European Food Safety Authority states that non-pregnant women should drink around 1.6 litres a day, equivalent to eight 200ml glasses6. During pregnancy, you will need at least this amount, and you may find that you need more to avoid dehydration. Keep a bottle of water handy so that you can sip throughout the day, and remember to drink more during hot weather and after exercise.
Suitable drinks for pregnancy include water, whether straight from the tap, if safe in your area, or bottled (either carbonated or still), milk, fruit juices and squash. Juice can be high in sugar, but providing it’s pure fruit, it can also count as part of your daily fruit and vegetable intake. Soup also counts, and can provide a good serving of beneficial nutrients too7.
“When choosing juice, make sure it is pure fruit juice with no added sugar, and limit your intake to one glass per day, due to the high natural sugar content.”
Try to avoid drinks that are fizzy or high in sugar. With little nutritional value, it’s best to avoid them or try a healthier alternative6.
You should also limit your intake of caffeinated varieties of tea and coffee. Caffeine can act as a diuretic, increasing your need to urinate, and can also affect your baby. Because of this, it’s on the list of foods to limit or avoid in pregnancy, and it’s recommended that you have no more than 200mg per day6.
Preparing to drink for two
As you start looking ahead to breastfeeding, you can consider the extra fluid intake you need during pregnancy to be good practice for the even bigger demands of making breast milk.
Research shows that while breastfeeding, your need increases even more to keep your own body hydrated and to provide the water required to produce a good supply of milk. Aim to drink around 600–700ml extra per day – equivalent to 2 or 3 glasses7.
Many mums find that as soon as they sit down to breastfeed, they feel thirsty. This helpful response can make it easier to stay hydrated with enough fluids to support you both. Keep a big glass of water within reach when feeding your baby, day or night.
Follow these tips to stay hydrated during pregnancy:
- Keep a glass of water next to your bed and drink it first thing in the morning
- Keep a bottle of water in your bag or on your desk and sip regularly throughout the day
- Buy a 1 litre water bottle and aim to fill and drink the full amount twice a day
- Experiment with water to make it more interesting: a squeeze of lemon, lime or some fresh mint leaves can give it a subtle, welcome flavour