Drinking water and staying hydrated is important during pregnancy. We have all the info here on how much water a pregnant person should drink.
By Sherri Gordon, CLC
Published on August 17, 2023
Medically reviewed by Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG
One of the simplest steps you can take to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy is to drink enough water. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) indicates that you may need as much as 96 ounces of water a day if you’re expecting.1
Not only does drinking water help keep you hydrated and healthy, but it also helps support your baby’s development. It can help reduce swelling, lower your risk of UTIs, and keep your digestive tract regular. Ahead, we’ll explore why drinking water in pregnancy is so important, the risks of not drinking enough, and how to spot dehydration.
Why Is Drinking Water Important During Pregnancy?
Water is crucial for everyone, pregnant or not, since our bodies are composed of more than 60% water, says Ruth Arumala, DO, MPH, NCMP, the co-chief medical officer of Zuri Fertility.2 But drinking water during your pregnancy is especially important because it helps support your baby’s growth, development, and metabolic activity.3 Water also aids in digestion, supports your baby’s circulation, balances your amniotic fluid, allows for optimal absorption of water-soluble vitamins, regulates body temperature, and more.4
Meanwhile, if you are not drinking enough water to stay hydrated, you can experience an array of uncomfortable—and sometimes worrisome—symptoms such dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, and contractions, says Ellen Smead, CNM, a certified nurse-midwife at Northside Women’s Specialists, Pediatrix Medical Group. “There are also changes to a pregnant person’s skin, so the more you can drink water and perfuse the skin, even better. Being well-hydrated can even relieve some of that [dry itchy skin].”
Recommended Daily Water Intake for Pregnant People
When you are pregnant, your fluid needs increase, explains Chitra Akileswaran, MD, MBA, a board-certified OB-GYN, president and chief executive of East Bay Medical Group, and co-founder of Cleo. “The current recommendation for water intake for pregnant people is 8 to 12 cups of water every day, although if it’s hot or you’ve been exercising, you’ll need more.”1
Of course, your daily water needs also will vary depending on what your body needs, your medical conditions, and your weight. That said, most pregnant people will need about two to three liters (67 to 100 ounces) of water a day, which can include water or flavored water (without added sugars). “Carrying around a one-liter bottle and remembering to fill it at least twice a day is helpful,” says Smead.
Factors Influencing Your Hydration Needs During Pregnancy
The amount of water you drank prior to pregnancy is usually not sufficient in pregnancy, says Dr. Arumala. “To accommodate the needs of pregnancy, there is an expansion of maternal blood plasma volume over 30% by the third trimester. In addition, there are physiologic changes to the kidneys that include an increased filtration rate. The combination of these factors in addition to the intrinsic needs of the fetus, creates an additional demand.”
Yet, researchers in one study found that only about one-third of people drink enough water during pregnancy.3 Lack of adequate hydration can lead to pregnancy complications including everything from low amniotic fluid to preterm labor.
Dealing with summer heat or even getting a sunburn increases the likelihood you will become dehydrated. Sunburned skin causes your body to lose moisture, Smead adds. Plus, if a pregnant person is very active or taking long walks every day, there is an even higher demand for non-caffeinated and low- or no-sugar fluids daily, she says.
“How much water your body is losing through exercise, heat exposure, sweating, working, and being sick are important factors to keep track of,” says Farnaz Jahangiri, MD, an OB-GYN and assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “A good rule of thumb is to look at your urine color. Your urine will be pale yellow if you are well hydrated. If it starts to turn darker, increase fluid intake immediately.”
Risks of Not Drinking Enough Water During Pregnancy
There are a number of risks associated with not drinking enough water in pregnancy. For instance, you may become more susceptible to urinary tract infections or painful constipation. You also can potentially experience preterm contractions.
“If your body is dehydrated, the uterine muscles will sometimes begin to contract, causing cramping or painful contractions at a time that is too early for a full-term delivery (before 37 weeks),” Smead explains.
Another risk of not drinking enough water in pregnancy is oligohydramnios, which is a condition that occurs when your amniotic fluid volume is too low, points out Lisa Guyton, MD, an OB/GYN at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. In fact, dehydration is often a leading cause of oligohydramnios, which can cause miscarriage, preterm birth, or even stillbirth.56 Your baby also may experience breathing difficulties when there is too little amniotic fluid.
Research also has connected chronic dehydration during pregnancy with a number of other issues. For instance, the weight and length of your baby at birth, as well as their head and chest circumference could be impacted by not drinking enough water.
Dehydration also causes you to feel sluggish, nauseated, and lightheaded, Dr. Jahangiri says. “Your blood pressure is lower in pregnancy than it is outside of pregnancy—especially in the second trimester (between 14 and 28 weeks). If you add dehydration to that, you can feel faint or pass out. Always look at the color of your urine and increase fluid intake as needed to keep it pale yellow.”
Signs of Dehydration During Pregnancy
Signs of mild dehydration include dark yellow urine, headache, dry or sticky mouth, sleepiness, constipation, and dizziness, says Dr. Akileswaran. “Braxton-Hicks contractions are another sign of dehydration in pregnant people to watch out for. These only last a minute or two and are most common in the third trimester, but can happen in the second trimester as well.”
If you are severely dehydrated, you may be irritable or confused, produce little to no urine, have very dark urine, have sunken eyes, and/or experience an increased heartbeat, rapid breathing, and low blood pressure, she adds. “Your skin may lack elasticity during severe dehydration as well, so it doesn’t bounce back when pinched.”
Signs of dehydration can, at times, start slowly and then become very evident all at once, Smead says. “At times, a pregnant person may feel a mild headache in the late morning, and then by late afternoon without having caught up on water intake, may have a splitting headache with uterine cramps and extreme fatigue.”
If you think you may be dehydrated, the first thing to do is drink water, she says. “Sometimes it may take 30 minutes to an hour to catch up on water intake and start to feel better. I would recommend drinking several eight-ounce glasses of water over 30 minutes if needed and then sit comfortably with your feet elevated.”
If you are still experiencing a persistent headache, fatigue, dizziness, or any uterine cramping after hydrating with rest, contact a health care provider and review your symptoms, she says.
Practical Tips for Maintaining Proper Hydration During Pregnancy
One of the best ways to keep up with the hydration needs of pregnancy is to have a water bottle with a visual cue for intake, says Dr. Guyton. Not only does it let you know how much water you have consumed, but it also can be a reminder of how much you still need to drink for the day.
“Some pregnant people also have found it useful to set alarms on a phone or watch to have reminders throughout the day to keep drinking those fluids,” Smead adds. “Also, having a friend, family member, or partner involved as well is usually helpful.”
You also can try eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content such as cucumber, apples, watercress, strawberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe, Dr. Arumala says. Meanwhile, consider limiting foods that are natural diuretics such as coffee, black and green tea, and asparagus.
And, when trying to decide what to drink throughout the day, remember that water is best, says Dr. Jahangiri. “Caffeinated and sugar-packed drinks can worsen dehydration, so stay away from those. If pure water does not sound appetizing, try adding some lemon or a few pieces of fruit for taste. Sports drinks are fine if you are losing electrolytes through diarrhea, vomiting, or [excessive] sweating, but they can have unnecessary ingredients and lots of sugar.” As always, if you find yourself with further questions or concerns about your water intake while pregnant, be sure to reach out to a health care provider for guidance.