Did you know that dehydration during pregnancy can sometimes lead to premature contractions or labor?

Dr. Nicholas Bodenheimer of Novant Health OB/GYN in Bolivia, North Carolina, said staying hydrated during pregnancy is critical, especially during the second and third trimesters.

“If a pregnant woman is dehydrated, her body will release an anti-diuretic hormone to help her body conserve water,” Bodenheimer said. “At the same time, the brain may also release a hormone called oxytocin, which causes the uterus to contract and can be responsible for preterm contractions and possibly preterm labor.”

How much is enough?

So how can you make sure you stay hydrated during pregnancy?

Pregnant women should drink 3 liters (about 12 to 13 8-ounce glasses) of water per day, according to the dietary intake recommendations developed by the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies .

“The best way to prevent and treat dehydration is to drink water,” Bodenheimer said. “But if a woman doesn’t like drinking water all the time, there are some other options.”

Bodenheimer recommended drinking an 8-ounce glass of skim milk, as it contains has more than 7 ounces of water, as well as sparkling or flavored water. Fruit and vegetable juices are also an option, although he warned to be careful of extra sugar in fruit juices and extra sodium in vegetable juices. He also recommends limiting soda and caffeine intake.

Replenish the water you lose

In the summer months especially, said Bodenheimer, women need to be aware of how much they are sweating during exercise or normal activities.

“It’s easy to lose sight of how much you are physically expending yourself,” Bodenheimer said. “I stress to my patients to be conscious of what they are doing and make sure they are replenishing the water they are losing through sweat.”

Bodenheimer said there is often a misconception that exercise during pregnancy may have adverse effects.

“Exercise is safe, and actually can be encouraged during pregnancy,” he said. “Walking is a great exercise for beginners. Swimming and water aerobics are also low impact exercises that are safe during pregnancy.”

Benefits of staying hydrated

Staying hydrated during pregnancy can also reduce your risk for symptoms and side effects such as:

  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Swelling
  • Overheating
  • Fatigue

Childbirth is unpredictable — but thinking through your preferences ahead of time can make you feel more confident on the day of. Download our birth preparation guide.