Pregnant women should consumer between 8-12 cups of water daily.
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  • Doctors generally recommend that pregnant women drink 8 to 12 cups of water or other liquids daily.
  • The recommended amount may change depending on how much water the individual is losing through sweating or vomiting.

When you’re pregnant, it’s important to stay hydrated because it reduces the risk of constipation, swelling, and UTIs, to name a few benefits. However, it can be especially difficult to stay hydrated while pregnant. 

“The main thing that contributes to difficulty staying hydrated during pregnancy is nausea and vomiting in the first trimester,” says Nicole Smith, MD, medical director of the Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Water on an already upset stomach can be very difficult to tolerate.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends women who are pregnant drink 8-12 cups of water per day. But several factors — such as morning sickness and level of physical activity — will determine how much water is right for you. Here’s how to tell how much water you should drink during pregnancy and how to tell when you’re dehydrated.

How much water should a pregnant woman drink daily?

While there is no fool-proof formula to determine the right amount of water to drink while pregnant, Smith says pregnant women generally do not need to exceed two liters per day or about 8.5 cups. 

However, that amount may change depending on how much water the individual is losing through sweating, vomiting, or other factors, Smith says. 

For example, pregnant women who exercise or live in hot climates will need additional water intake to make up for the fluids they lose while sweating, Smith says. 

"We need more water when we exercise, not only because we sweat, but because muscles use up quite a bit of water," Smith says. "The more exercise you get, the more fluids you need to take in."

Cold weather may be another reason to increase your water intake because the dry air caused by indoor heating requires more hydration, Smith says. She added that the number of babies carried should not affect water intake recommendations.

Drinking water in the morning while pregnant is usually best

Smith recommends getting the bulk of your fluids earlier in the day to avoid getting up at night to urinate. Lack of sleep during pregnancy can lead to complications including high blood pressure and longer and higher rates of cesarean section. 

"Generally, [pregnant women] don't want to drink too much water after dinner in the evening, because they'll be up all night long going to the bathroom," Smith says. 

That said, pregnant women — particularly those suffering from nausea — should consume water whenever they can keep fluids down, regardless of the time of day. It may be easier to suck on ice instead.

In addition to drinking water, you can stay hydrated by consuming fruit juice, fat-free milk, strawberries, celery, squash, and other watery fruits and vegetables. 

Some caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea can contribute to your daily fluid requirement, as well. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that moderate caffeine consumption, less than 200 mg a day, is safe during pregnancy and does not seem to cause dehydration.

Why pregnant women need to stay hydrated

Staying hydrated during pregnancy has many benefits including: 

  • Decreased constipation and hemorrhoids 
  • Reduced swelling of the body 
  • A decrease in the risk of urinary tract infections 
  • Lower risk of preterm labor  
  • More production of amniotic fluid which protects the baby while in the womb

It's important to note that, while hydration certainly contributes to reducing the risk of certain issues, it is not the only factor at play. For example, proper hydration does not always correct a urinary tract infection or abnormally low amniotic fluid. It is important to reach out to your doctor if any of these items occur.

Moreover, too much of a good thing is possible. Overhydration can cause blood sodium levels to drop too low and flush out electrolytes, which may lead to headache, nausea, vomiting, and muscle weakness. Overall, overhydration is not as common as dehydration.

How to tell if you're dehydrated

Some of the most telling symptoms of dehydration include: 

  • Dark-colored urine. Although there is a range of "normal" colors for urine, dark yellow or orange often indicates dehydration.
  • Dizziness. Lack of proper hydration can lead to dizziness or confusion, especially when you physically exert yourself. Women often have lower blood pressure in pregnancy, which means it is much easier for dizziness to occur if you are not hydrating appropriately.
  • Fatigue. Because your body is up to 60% water and plays a large role in carrying nutrients to cells, you may feel weak or tired without drinking enough water.
  • Dry mouth. If your body is lacking the appropriate amount of hydration, your mouth will likely produce less saliva than it needs, leading to a dry mouth.

There are several risks of dehydration for pregnant women, including:

  • Kidney stones. These small mineral deposits can be caused by dehydration and lead to pain in the lower back and abdomen. If untreated, kidney stones increase the risk of preterm birth and can disrupt the labor process, jeopardizing the baby in the process.
  • Urinary tract infections. Dehydration can cause UTIs, which come with symptoms like painful urination and a constant urge to urinate. Pregnant women are more likely to have UTIs without symptoms and are at increased risk of the infection traveling to their kidneys. If left untreated, a UTI can increase the risk of preeclampsia, preterm birth, and — in extreme cases — the death of the mother and/or fetus.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions. Also referred to as "false labor pains," these contractions occur when the uterine muscles sporadically contract and relax, mimicking real labor pains. The leading cause of this condition is dehydration.
  • Hemorrhoids. These swollen blood vessels around the anus affect up to 35% of pregnant women and can result in extreme discomfort. Because constipation can cause this condition – and water helps the digestive system to properly function – dehydration can increase the risk of hemorrhoids. 

Pregnant women who are experiencing any of these conditions should consult with their doctor or get emergency treatment, depending on the severity of their symptoms, Smith says. A doctor can administer intravenous fluids if the patient has trouble keeping fluids down.

Insider's takeaway

Doctors generally recommend that pregnant women drink 8-12 cups of water or other liquids daily. Ice, fat-free milk, juice, and several different fruits and vegetables all count toward meeting that goal.

Dehydration can contribute to a variety of medical problems, and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. Vomiting, high temperatures, and sweating during exercise are all reasons for women who are expecting to increase their water intake. 

"Getting fluids is important for both the baby and the mother," Smith says.

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