Looking for a “magic pill” for prenatal or postpartum annoyances? As luck would have it, one thing, in particular, can provide relief from a wide variety of them: Hydration! Yes, when it comes to your health — especially during pregnancy and early motherhood — hydration is a rather amazing remedy for a myriad of ailments. Staying hydrated is one of the simplest ways to feel better. Both calorie and sugar-free, you can carry it with you wherever you go! Read on to learn why proper hydration is so important during this period, and some simple tips to help you boost your intake!
8 Reasons to Stay Hydrated
- It prevents overheating during pregnancy. During the first trimester of pregnancy — when your baby’s critical brain and organ development are occurring — it is very important to avoid getting overheated, as maternal body temperatures over 102°F have been associated with an increase in neural tube defects in the fetus. One of the ways the mother’s body naturally protects against this is by sweating more. Staying hydrated is important to enable you to keep sweating, and also to replace increased fluids lost through sweating.
- It prevents your heart from overworking during pregnancy. During pregnancy, your heart already works harder — pumping about 40% more per minute by your third trimester. If you are dehydrated though, it will have to work even harder to maintain adequate blood volume. Avoid putting unnecessary stress on your heart by drinking up!
- It helps prevent edema (swelling). During pregnancy, increased blood flow combined with a growing uterus can cause not-so-awesome swelling, particularly in your hands, ankles, and feet. Though it sounds counter-intuitive, increasing your water intake actually decreases swelling by helping to flush out excess sodium.
- It improves nutrient delivery to the fetus. Staying hydrated helps your body absorb and transport vitamins, minerals, and hormones to the blood cells, and in turn, the placenta and your growing baby.
- It can help prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. These are two not-so-fun, but common, side effects of pregnancy due to hormonal changes impacting your intestinal tract, and your growing uterus placing increased pressure on your pelvic blood vessels. Hydration helps improve digestion and, in turn, excretion (and adding a little lemon to your water can get things moving even more!). Because constipation can cause hemorrhoids, drinking plenty of water can kill two birds with one stone.
- It’s very important for nursing moms! You need even more water while nursing than you did during pregnancy, as you will lose a lot of fluids through nursing. While dehydration won’t necessarily impact your milk supply or composition, it will affect how YOU feel — potentially leading to increased fatigue (when you’re already sleep-deprived enough!), increased hunger, headaches, or nausea.
- It alleviates headaches and muscle cramps. Dehydration can decrease blood volume, and, therefore, the amount of oxygen-rich blood flowing through your body, which can lead to headaches and muscle cramps. As a new or expecting mom, you will have enough aches and pains from other issues, so keep sipping to avoid adding these things to the list.
- It increases your energy. And what pregnant woman or new mom doesn’t need that?! While adequate hydration won’t “cure” fatigue, it can certainly help alleviate it….and let’s face it, you need all the help you can get in the fatigue department!
How to Know if You’re Getting Enough
On average, pregnant moms need about 10 cups of water per day, while nursing moms need about 13. There are many variables, though, that can impact this. In general, it’s best to keep sipping throughout the day, letting your thirst be your guide — trying not to let yourself get overly thirsty, as this means you’re already dehydrated. A good way to gauge if you are drinking enough is to use the color of your urine as a gauge. If it’s very pale yellow, or straw-colored, this means you’re getting ample fluids. If it is darker yellow, this is a sign you should up your intake.
5 Simple Ways to Boost Your Fluid Intake
Often times, we simply get too busy and just forget to drink (especially new moms managing the 24/7 demands of an infant!). Try these simple tips below to help you get more fluids:
- Carry a water bottle everywhere you go. If you purchase a reusable one, make sure it fits in the purse or bag you carry every day so you’ll be more likely to actually bring it with you!
- Drink more between meals than with meals. Drinking large amounts with meals can increase the risk of nausea and heartburn during pregnancy. If you concentrate on sipping more throughout the day, you’ll stay better hydrated and also resist the urge to take big gulps with meals due to thirst!
- Drink before, during, and after exercise. You lose a lot of water during exercise. Drink up before, program water breaks into your workout, and continue to drink up afterward!
- “Double-fist” with other beverages. If you enjoy a glass of wine, beer, coffee, or tea, have a glass of water with it. Alternate sipping water with your beverage. This also helps you prevent over-consuming any of these beverages.
- Water isn’t the only way to hydrate! If water just seems too plain and boring to you, remember that you have choices! Here are a few other options:
- Sparkling water
- Decaf tea
- Unsweetened beverages: milk, almond milk, etc.
- Fruits and veggies: Melons, berries, pineapples, citrus fruits, cucumbers, and spinach, in particular, have a high water content
- Soups: just be mindful of sodium
- “Water Plus”: Try adding an electrolyte booster like Motive Pure to your water. It provides your body with electrolytes to boost hydration, and with just a touch of natural stevia sweetener, it is a safe no-calorie option during and after pregnancy.
Remember, good nutrition starts with proper hydration. It’s simple, inexpensive, and just feels good! What’s better than that? Bottoms up!