Pregnancy Dehydration: Causes and Complications
Maintaining proper hydration during pregnancy can be a challenge. The reason is simple: Symptoms caused by the hormonal and physical changes of pregnancy speed up the loss of fluids and electrolytes. And when we lose fluids and electrolytes too quickly, we become dehydrated.
Plus, the body’s increased water needs add to the challenge of maintaining hydration. For instance, a majority of the maternal weight is water. Normally, there is about 5-6 liters of water in the body; during pregnancy, this can increase to as much as 9 liters. Expecting mothers also produce more blood (which requires more water) to help send nutrients to the developing baby.
3 Conditions That Cause Dehydration During Pregnancy
Morning Sickness affects roughly 50 percent of expecting mothers, with some estimates suggesting it may be as high as 70-80 percent of women. According to the American Pregnancy Association, morning sickness symptoms typically begin at 4-6 weeks and peak at 9-13 weeks, and they include vomiting, nausea, increased sweating and more frequent urination.
Commonly, the symptoms of morning sickness are greatly diminished or disappear completely by the second and third trimesters, but up to 20 percent of mothers may experience morning sickness throughout their pregnancies.
- Why Morning Sickness Causes Dehydration: Vomiting, increased sweating and more frequent urination all speed up the loss of water and electrolytes. In addition, nausea discourages you from drinking fluids voluntarily, which can make it more difficult to replace lost nutrients.
Hyperemesis, sometimes called severe morning sickness, is a rare condition that affects about 2 percent of expecting mothers. The symptoms of Hyperemesis are often confused with those of morning sickness, but they are much more severe and last throughout the pregnancy. Symptoms include severe vomiting, extreme nausea and the inability to keep down foods.
- Why Hyperemesis Causes Dehydration: Like morning sickness, the symptoms of Hyperemesis cause a rapid loss of fluids and electrolytes. Plus, fever, which is sometimes associated with the vomiting and nausea of Hyperemesis, can increase sweating and amplify fluid loss.
Diarrhea during pregnancy can be caused by sudden dietary changes, increased hormone production or sensitivity to certain foods that some women experience during pregnancy. During the third trimester, diarrhea is more common, especially nearing the due date.
- How Diarrhea Causes Dehydration: Diarrhea results in a severe loss of water and electrolytes, and it is one of the leading causes of dehydration. Replenishing water and electrolytes following an episode of diarrhea is critical to prevent dehydration.
What Are the Complications of Pregnancy Dehydration?
- Constipation: Hormonal changes experienced by expecting mothers slow the digestive process, which leads to constipation. Staying properly hydrated helps the stomach digest food and create waste.
- Urinary Tract Infections: Pregnant women are more susceptible to UTI, and dehydration may increase the risk of UTI. For instance, in studies of non-pregnant women, some results have shown that dehydration makes women more susceptible to UTI.
- Lower Amniotic Fluid: Several studies have found that dehydration can decrease amniotic fluid levels.
- Braxton Hicks contractions: Dehydration is widely considered a trigger for Braxton Hicks contractions, and often, drinking more fluids is a first-course of action to ease these contractions.