As summer begins and the weather heats up, it’s especially important to remember to keep hydrated if you are pregnant.
Dehydration occurs when the body is losing water faster than it is taking it in. A woman needs to consume more water when she is pregnant. Since water is used to regulate the body’s temperature, she can be prone to overheating. Dehydration can lead to poor fetal development, low amniotic fluid and birth defects, as well as preterm labor.
When you are dehydrated your muscles contract. Since the uterus is a large muscle, lacking fluids can cause it to contract. Because dehydration can cause your blood volume to decrease, it can lead to higher than normal levels of oxytocin in your blood. Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for uterine contractions. If the oxytocin levels get too high, contractions can begin. If they are not stopped, those contractions can cause cervical change and, eventually, delivery of the baby. Premature delivery of the baby can lead to a myriad of health risks.
So what are some ways to stay hydrated and protect yourself from overheating?
- Obviously, drinking water regularly is one of the easiest ways. You don’t want to wait until you are thirsty; make a point of having water on hand wherever you go, especially if you will be outside. And don’t forget that other beverages count as well. Milk, soup, juice and decaffeinated tea all go toward your total water intake.
- Eating foods with high water content is also a good idea. Cucumbers, lettuce, green peppers, spinach, broccoli, watermelon and strawberries are good choices.
- Spending some time in the shade will help with overheating, but keep a close eye on how much time you spend outside on really hot and humid days.
- When it’s really muggy and you’ll be outside, watch the amount of activity you do as that can increase the amount of fluids your body uses and can raise your body temperature.
Generally speaking, drink often so you don’t feel thirsty, eat foods high in water content, find some shade on really hot and humid days, and choose activities that don’t leave you completely exhausted.