Staying Well Hydrated During Pregnancy
*This article contains links from Amazon.com but is not sponsored by any product or company. Opinions on products are the author's own true opinions and the anecdotes within are real experiences.*
Throughout pregnancy, it is crucial to stay well hydrated. For most Americans at least, this is a challenge even when not being taxed by a growing baby in the womb. Watch the short video below to understand the basics about staying hydrated during pregnancy.
I've written a longer, more detailed break of the pregnancy nutrients & hydration levels needed and ideas for how to budget for healthy foods. Check that out here. For this article, I want to focus on the quicker tips, tricks, and recommendations I frequently speak to doula and birth photography clients about regarding staying hydrated.
Considering the climate in Southern California is usually dry and warm, the risk of dehydration is near-constant. Being underhydrated during pregnancy can have several risks for both parties, birther and baby. Dehydration can lead to muscle tightening (aka contractions of the uterus), preterm labor, and low amniotic fluid. It can also cause fatigue, dizziness, and other complications for the mother. It is important for pregnant people to drink enough fluids, especially water, to stay hydrated. This is because the body's fluid needs increase due to increased blood volume for uterine and fetal growth. It is generally recommended that pregnant folks drink at least 8-12 cups (64-96 ounces) of fluids per day. It is also important to pay attention to thirst and drink fluids as needed. If you are concerned about your hydration status during pregnancy, you should talk to your healthcare provider.
This recommendation for a pregnancy hydration booster comes from a past client who stood on her feet all day for work as a hair stylist. She couldn't take bathroom breaks as often as others (which we all know is frequent as heck by the time third trimester pregnancy hits), so she'd drink less but then feel terrible by the end of the day. Until she found this gem of a product. As a doula and birth photographer, I'm always listening for these first-hand recommendations from pregnant or postpartum clients because they usually work the best and have already been vetted by those whose opinions matter most to me!
I was excited to learn about this coconut water-based option that comes in multiple flavors. It's also the perfect low-sugar drink for my clients with gestational diabetes. My personal favorites are the Blueberry Pomegranate and the Strawberry Lemonade flavors, though all the flavors have been more than tolerable. I will caution folks interested though that any coconut water-based product has a chance to be a bit funky once in a while. While my spouse doesn't mind when this happens with Body Armor drinks, I personally get icked out and have to pass on it if the taste when opened is hitting wrong. This may just be me, and I will say it's not common, but be forewarned in case your taste buds are picky like mine!
This one is not for the vegetarian or vegan pregnant folks, but for the omnivores out there interested in boosting collagen, protein, and hydration all at once? Bone broth could be the ticket. Bone broth is a liquid made by simmering bones and connective tissue in water for an extended period of time. It is believed to have a number of health benefits due to its high collagen content, which can help support skin, hair, and nail health. Bone broth is also a good source of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which are important for maintaining strong bones-this is especially important during pregnancy as you're literally growing bones!
Bone broth has a long history of use in many cultures around the world, including in Asia. In some Asian countries, bone broth is commonly made with chicken, beef, or pork bones, and it is often used as a base for soups and stews. In addition to a nutrition source, bone broth is often used, especially with garlic or ginger added, as a natural remedy for colds and other ailments. While pregnant, the immune system is suppressed
In traditional Chinese medicine, bone broth is often recommended for its nourishing properties and is believed to help support the digestive system. In Korea, a popular dish called "samgyetang" is made with a whole young chicken stuffed with rice and ginseng, and cooked in a broth made from chicken bones. This dish is traditionally eaten during the hot summer months to help replenish the body's energy and nutrients.
In Japan, a type of bone broth called "osuimono" is commonly made with fish or shellfish bones and is used as a base for light soups and clear broths. It is believed to be particularly beneficial for digestion and is often served as a palate cleanser between courses of a multi-course meal.
I was also taught in midwifery school that collagen should be a part of a daily diet for healthy skin and soft tissues like the perineum, which can tear during the pushing stage of birth. Finally, many past doula clients have cited bone broth as THE thing that got them through first-trimester morning sickness as protein intake can directly combat nausea.
Okay, on to where to find/buy bone broth during pregnancy!
Locally, a favorite source is Fermentation Farm in Costa Mesa, CA. They sell fresh and hot broth to eat on-site or cardboard tubs like ice cream from their freezers (about $15 for 24oz). This method of storage is a little less convenient as they can leak when thawing and make a mess in the fridge, but they're likely to be eco-friendlier than the options below.
I personally find it's an amazingly light and quick protein source (commonly 8-10g of protein for 1 cup of liquid). Considering the recommendation for protein intake during pregnancy keeps going up in research studies (and is currently somewhere between 70-100g a day depending on the source), this could be an easy way to get your protein numbers up during pregnancy without increasing your meat/dairy/fish budget, needing to snack on nuts all day long, or relying on beans which often make pregnant people feel weighed down and sluggish. Of course a balanced diet is always key, but I find that 8oz of bone broth a day provides a cushion for our busy muscles and of course ups hydration which is even more vital during pregnancy and postpartum.
These 8oz single-serving packs are my absolute favorites though. I take them to births with me as they are great for laboring moms and support people like birth partners, doulas, birth photographers, midwives, and more. It's just another great sipping option for birth and they are shelf stable so no need for cooking/warming if you can tolerate room temperature fluids that taste slightly salty. Once in a while I can find these at my local Target, though I usually stock up when on sale online for the best deal.
If you've ever been to a day spa where cucumber water was available, you probably know the joys of sipping on infused water! But did you know there are real health benefits to that flavored? Infused water is just straight water that has been flavored with various fresh or frozen fruits, vegetables, or herbs. Infused water is by far the #1 form of hydration I see at births as a doula and photographer.
Some of the potential benefits of infused water include:
Increased hydration: Drinking infused water can help to increase your fluid intake, which is important for overall health and can help to prevent dehydration. It tastes better than water by itself to most people, so you're more likely to reach for it again and again!
Added nutrients: Infusing water with fruits and vegetables can add additional nutrients to your diet, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Improved digestion: Some infused waters, such as those made with cucumber or mint, may help to improve digestion and reduce bloating.
Flavor without a spoonful of sugar: Infused water can add flavor to your water without adding sugar or corn syrup, making it a healthy alternative to sugary drinks. This is especially helpful for those managing gestational diabetes or diabetes + pregnancy.
It is important to note that not all infused waters are created equal, and some pre-made/shelved products may contain added sugars or other ingredients that may not be as healthy. So check labels, or venture to make your own at home!
Making your own is simple, but can be time consuming. Add your desired ingredients (such as sliced fruit, vegetables, or herbs) to a pitcher of water and let it steep for a few hours or overnight. This allows the flavors & nutrients to infuse into the water. Some folks leave the fruit/veggies/herb in and sip from a straw at the bottom of the mixture, but most strain out the solids. An alternative to both of those options is to invest in an infusion pitcher like this:
Here's the recipe of my favorite infused water:
1 lemon, sliced or in chunks
1 cucumber, thinly sliced or chopped
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh strawberries
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
Pinch of salt
At least 8 cups/64oz of water
Wash and cut fresh ingredients, then combine in water-adding a teeny pinch of salt can bring out the moisture quickly
Stir a few times or squish down with a fork
Cover pitcher and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight to allow infusion
Strain if desired, then serve chilled (over ice is okay, but doesn't hydrate quite as well)
Many of my doula and birth photography clients drink tea before, during, and after pregnancy. For hydration, nutrition support, relaxation, and more, drinking hot teas while pregnant can have a number of potential benefits. Some of the my most recommended teas for pregnancy are:
Red raspberry leaf tea: This tea is rich in nutrients and is believed to help strengthen the uterus and support pregnancy. However, it should not be consumed in large amounts or before the 32nd week of pregnancy.
Chamomile tea: This tea is known for its calming effects and may help to reduce stress and promote relaxation. It is also believed to have mild pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
Ginger tea: Ginger is a natural digestive aid and may help to reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It is also believed to have mild pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
Lemon balm tea: This tea is believed to have calming and digestive-supporting effects and may help to reduce stress and improve sleep.
Peppermint tea: This tea may help to improve digestion and reduce bloating, which are common complaints during pregnancy. *Be cautious when breastfeeding to limit peppermint intake as it's known to reduce supply*
It is important to note that not all teas are safe to drink during pregnancy, and some may contain ingredients that can be harmful to your growing baby. For example, teas that contain large amounts of caffeine should be avoided during pregnancy, as caffeine can cross the placenta and affect the baby. It is generally recommended that pregnant folks limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg per day or less. Before drinking any hot tea during pregnancy, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider to ensure that it is safe for you to do so.
These brands are well regarded in the birth community and easy enough to find. I can't vouch for their safety specifically, only that clients have praised them time and again + midwives often recommend them.
A hydration booster powder is a type of supplement that is designed to help replenish fluids and electrolytes in the body. These powders are typically mixed with water to create a flavored beverage that can help to increase hydration. Made with a variety of ingredients, including electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium), carbohydrates, and other nutrients, some hydration supplements may also contain added vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and zinc.
These powders are often used by athletes (and what's more athletic than growing a human and then moving throughout a labor and birth?) to help replace fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat during exercise or in hot environments. They may also be used by people who are recovering from illness or dehydration, or by those who simply want to increase their hydration levels.
It is important to note that hydration booster powders are not a substitute for a healthy diet and should not be used as a sole source of nutrition. They are best used as a supplement to help increase a pregnant person's hydration in conjunction with a balanced diet that includes a variety of fluids and electrolyte-rich foods. While generally considered safe for pregnant women to use hydration supplements if they are taken as directed, always check with your OB/GYN or Midwife to ensure your hydration supplement choice does not interfere with other medications or impact your unique health negatively. All this said, my clients have sent recommendations for various supplements over time, and I'll share the ones mentioned most favorably here:
This brand is gaining traction recently, and clients tell me it is not only good for hydration but also did provide the promised energy boost without added caffeine.
Amanda Cagle resides in Southern California, offering doula and photography services to families in Los Angeles, Orange County, and parts of the Inland Empire. Reach out today to schedule your doula and birth photography consultation!