Water plays a vital role in our survival and in the efficient functioning of our bodies. Water is the basic building block of our existence. Every cell in our body is made up of water; it plays an essential role in our digestion process, in regulating our body temperature through breathing and sweating. It is essential in the functioning of the major organs in our body such as the heart and the brain, transporting important nutrients, hormones and chemicals around the body and plays a crucial role in flushing out toxins from our bodies.
Our body is composed of at least 60% water; during pregnancy, water becomes even more important in supporting the growth and development of the foetus. In this article we will explore why water is very important for a healthy pregnancy.
Importance of water during pregnancy
Water plays a vital role in the functioning of our blood system. Our blood consists of over 90% of water and it is the primary vehicle for transporting essential nutrients, hormones and oxygen to cells around our body and in removing harmful substances from the cells.
This role becomes very important during pregnancy; the growing foetus needs a regular supply of food nutrients and oxygen and constant removal of waste produced. The healthy growth and development of the foetus are dependent on this system. Insufficient water levels in the body reduce the blood water level, which in turn affects the efficiency of the blood system in its ability to transport nutrients and removal of toxin.
During pregnancy, the amniotic sac, carrying the foetus, is filled with amniotic fluid which is mostly water. The amniotic fluid helps to cushion the baby, absorbing the shock from bumps and injury. It also helps in regulating the body temperature, and the development of the foetus’ lungs, musculoskeletal and digestive systems. It is therefore crucial that the body remains hydrated with water throughout pregnancy for the healthy development of the foetus.
Importance of Drinking Safe Clean Water
It is important that water is safe and clean. On average people require approximately 20 – 50 litres of safe, clean drinking water per day for drinking, washing and cooking. Water which is contaminated is not just simply dirty; rather it is the cause of millions of deaths around the world. Millions of people die each year due to water contamination related diseases. Hundreds of charities are working around the globe to raise awareness and prevent millions of water-related deaths, click here for more information.
The World Health Organisation recommends that pregnant women should drink around three litres of water per day. This could be in the form of water, juice, soup or other food with high water content.
How Low Levels of Water Affect Pregnancy
1. Dehydration – dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than the intake of water. This is most common during pregnancy as the demands on water consumption increases, the formation of the amniotic sac requiring extra fluid is accompanied by the body catering for two living beings, rather than just one.
The foetus places great demands on the pregnant mother who needs to consume extra fluid and food. Most pregnancies witness a mild case of dehydration; however, severe dehydration is dangerous for both the mother and the growing foetus.
Some pregnant mothers suffer from morning sickness; this causes a lot of fluid to be lost thereby increasing the risk of dehydration. It is very important to increase the fluid consumed during pregnancy so that dehydration does not occur. Mothers find drinking water at regular intervals helps in relieving the symptoms of sickness, indigestion and heartburn. It also improves their complexion and they feel much healthier.
2. Headaches, Anxiety and Fatigue – Pregnancy raises the body temperature; the body’s homeostatic system has to work harder to maintain the body’s temperature. Pregnant women often feel excessively hot and tend to perspire more. Increased perspiration means greater loss of fluid from the body, making drinking fluids all the more important.
Aside from regulating our body temperature water intake helps to regulate our mood and feelings of tiredness. Headaches are the first sign of the body experiencing dehydration followed by experiencing constant fatigue and exhaustion. A hydrated body helps the brain to function efficiently as the brain tissue consists of 73% water. Any decrease in this level results in reduced concentration levels and feelings of a headache, and also a feeling of fatigue as the brain signals the body to slow down.
Dehydration results in feelings of stress and anxiety as levels of key salts and minerals become imbalanced in the body which impacts our coping mechanisms.
3. Constipation, UTI and Haemorrhoids – Drinking sufficient water helps our kidney system to function efficiently. The function of the kidneys is to maintain the overall fluid balance in the body by regulating and filtering the blood. Food nutrients are recycled back into the body whereas toxic material and waste are removed.
Keeping our body hydrated allows the body to remove urine efficiently. Concentrated urine can lead to urinary tract infections (UTI) as the urine lingers for too long in the bladder which acts as a breeding ground for bacteria. A hydrated body also reduces the risk of bladder and kidney infections.
A hydrated body also allows the removal of faeces easily and regularly. Dehydration gives rise to constipation; the pressure of relieving constipation causes the development of haemorrhoids, which is a common condition in pregnancy. It is therefore very important to drink water and fluids during pregnancy to prevent such conditions from developing.
4. Premature labour, low levels of amniotic fluid and reduced breast milk – dehydration can trigger pregnancy contractions which lead to premature birth. The last trimester is especially important in the growth and development of the baby, so it is important for the baby to reach full term. Dehydration can also cause the amniotic fluid to dry up which impacts the foetus’s ease of movement and breathing. If the foetus becomes uncomfortable this too could lead to the need to deliver the baby early.
A hydrated body helps in breast milk production; breast milk is composed of 89% water and contains vital nutrients to nourish your newborn. Dehydration reduces the quantity of milk produced.
In conclusion, water is an essential component of our make-up; all our bodily functions are extremely dependent on water. It becomes increasingly important to consume sufficient amount of water during pregnancy. We are not just catering for ourselves but also the needs of the growing being inside us. It is very useful to get into the habit of carrying a water bottle in our bags so that we can hydrate ourselves constantly.
As mother-to-be it is vital that we take charge of our health and well-being, eating healthy food and drinking sufficient amounts of water so that we can experience a healthy pregnancy and give the best chance for our foetus to grow and develop to its best capacity.