You know that being hydrated is important to staying healthy, and you probably follow that old rule of thumb: eight glasses of water a day. But what about when you’re pregnant? Should you be drinking more? They say you’re eating for two, but are you also drinking for two? We tapped a few experts to find out.
Exactly How Much Water Should I Be Drinking?
“The same recommendations for drinking water in general hold for pregnancy, that is, six to eight eight-ounce glasses a day,” explains Dr. Edward Marut, a reproductive endocrinologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois in the Chicago area. Meanwhile, the Office on Women's Health, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that pregnant women drink about ten cups (about 81 fluid ounces) of fluids daily, slightly more than the 64-ounce standard. But the exact amount that’s right for you really varies on your body type, size and your activity level, so it’s best to check with your doc if you’re looking for more precise info.
Do Other Liquids Count?
Of course, “fluids” doesn’t just mean glasses of water. “It is probably better to fulfill that half-a-gallon advice with nutritive beverages like fruit and vegetable juices or milk for some portion rather than plain water to sustain the intravascular volume [the volume of blood in your circulatory system],” Dr. Marut explains.
But before you try to replace your eight glasses of water with eight oat milk lattes, hear us out: You should limit the number of caffeinated drinks (like coffee) you consume, because caffeine can affect your baby. The March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women limit caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day, which is about one 12-ounce cup of coffee. Keep in mind that caffeine is also found in tea, soda and hot chocolate, so factor those drinks into your caffeine calculations as well.
While not much is known about the effects of caffeine on babies, it does “slightly increase your blood pressure and heart rate and the amount of urine your body makes. During pregnancy, you may be especially sensitive to caffeine because it may take you longer to clear it from your body than if you weren’t pregnant,” the March of Dimes notes.
Dr. Marut says that a cup of tea or coffee won’t necessarily hurt, but it may act like a diuretic, making you dehydrated. “If you’re thirsty, you’re probably behind in fluids and need to catch up,” he says. “Similar to when it’s hot out or you’re exercising.”
How Do I Know If I’m Not Drinking Enough?
Aside from being thirsty, other signs of dehydration include dark-colored urine (aim for pale or colorless), not urinating often (meaning less than three times a day); a dry, sticky mouth and eyes; lightheadedness or dizziness; constipation; headache; as well as increased anxiety, tiredness, mood swings and reduced memory.
Also, if you’re dealing with morning sickness, you might be losing fluids more rapidly, so be sure to drink plenty of extra water. You might be more sensitive to extreme temperatures—drinking water that is too cold or too hot may increase stomach pains and make you feel nauseous. Sip cool or warm water since it’s less of a shock to your system than ice-cold water or hot tea.
What Are the Benefits of Drinking More Water While I’m Pregnant?
By upping your water intake, you’ll help your body better absorb nutrients, flush out waste and toxins, and transport vitamins, minerals and hormones to blood cells. Your pregnant body also needs water in order to make amniotic fluid, produce extra blood volume, build new tissue, reduce swollen feet and ankles, decrease the risk of urinary tract infections and preterm labor, and ease constipation (and—fingers crossed—hemorrhoids).
“[Your] plasma volume increases as the pregnancy does, providing adequate blood supply to the placenta,” Dr. Marut tells us. “That’s why keeping up with those requirements is so important.” (Blood volume increases by up to about 50 percent during pregnancy, according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health.)
What Is the Best Way to Make Sure I’m Drinking Enough?
To stay hydrated throughout the day, add in water-packed fruits and veggies like watermelon (one cup is almost five ounces of water), strawberries, cucumbers, lettuce and cantaloupe. You can also snack on semi-liquid foods like yogurt (which also offers a calcium bonus), smoothies and popsicles. Soup (as long as it’s low-sodium), sparkling water and decaf tea totally count, too. You can also buy a reusable water bottle to help you track your intake.
And while soft drinks may help quench your thirst, they can contain more than a cup of sugar, a lot of empty calories, and artificial sweeteners and colors, so don’t gulp too many cans of this sweet stuff. (Carbonated beverages can also trigger heartburn, and no pregnant woman wants more of that.)