The Importance of Hydration

We all know how important it is to drink lots of fluids, especially water. Picture this: you are watching a marathon on television, and kind volunteers wearing colorful vests are handing out bottles of water to the runners. The marathoners drink as they run, thirstily pouring the water down their parched throats. They then throw the bottles away, and with renewed energy and strength, they charge through the finish line...Victorious

Well pregnancy and childbirth are just like marathons, and women need to be aware of the importance of remaining hydrated throughout the process.

DURING PREGNANCY:

Pregnant women need between 8 and 12 8oz glasses of water a day. For some women, remembering to drink that much water can be challenging: REMEMBER that herbal teas, soups or broth and juice are all fluids that are also recommended (no caffeine or alcohol).

Water

cleanses the body, removes toxins, brings nutrients to your baby.
ensures that the mother's energy level is maintained.
helps prevent dry skin, constipation and electrolyte imbalance.
So far so good.

One of the most important medical reasons to drink plenty of fluids during pregnancy, is to avoid premature labor. Preterm labor (labor that begins prior to 37 weeks gestation) cannot always be prevented, but pregnant women can be vigilant about their fluid intake. What can happen with dehydration (not enough fluids) is that the blood volume decreases, the concentration of oxytocin increases, and contractions can begin. (Oxytocin is the natural hormone that causes the uterus to contract.)

Staying hydrated will increase the blood volume preventing onset of preterm contractions.

Studies have also shown that if a mother's amniotic fluid level is a little low (oligohydramnios), oral re-hydration with fluids can increase the amniotic fluid levels (http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/lowamnioticfluid...)

DURING LABOR

Hydration during early labor is also very important. Mothers who are at home in early labor are encouraged to eat small meals and drink plenty of fluids ( water, broth, teas and juice). Labor is hard work and women need to replace electrolytes. As mentioned above, childbirth is just like a marathon, and women need not only to be encouraged, but also reminded to drink: it is easy in the heat of the moment to forget to drink. And also with drinking fluids it is important to remind the mother to use the bathroom, as a full bladder can become uncomfortable when contractions become more challenging.

EPIDURALS AND FLUIDS

* As a doula, if a mother I am supporting opts for an epidural, I make sure that she has plenty of fluids in her system before the anesthesia. Being properly hydrated lessens the chance of a drop in maternal blood pressure.