Water is Your Baby’s Greatest Nutrient
Water may be the most underutilized nutrient during pregnancy. The moment conception occurs, water demands increase dramatically as the infant’s cells divide and mom’s blood flow must be augmented. With thirst an unreliable indicator, symptoms of dehydration so vague, and drinks that expend more water than they provide, every pregnant woman stands to alter her fluid intake. It may be the factor that is most urgent for baby’s growth.
Kristen Montgomery, PhD, RN, writes in the Journal of Perinatal Education, “Pregnant and breastfeeding women should be encouraged to increase their intake of water and other fluids to meet their bodies’ needs…in order to support fetal circulation, amniotic fluid, and higher blood volume.”
Dehydration is a signal that water is unavailable for other body processes. According to Americanpregnancy.org/, for example, “maternal dehydration” is a cause of low amniotic fluid. The site says risks of having low amniotic fluid include “Compression of fetal organs resulting in birth defects, increased chance of miscarriage or stillbirth, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), preterm birth, and labor complications such as cord compression, meconium stained fluid, and cesarean delivery.”In Raising Baby Green, Alan Greene, MD, asks pregnant women to remember that their placenta is “providing approximately one cup of water each hour” just to replenish amniotic fluid in the womb. This water will not magically appear for the unborn baby.
The developing fetus places enormous demands for water onto the newly pregnant mom. F. Batmanghelidj, MD, (“Dr. B”), is an internationally renowned researcher, author and advocate of the natural healing power of water. Portions of his books, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water and Water for Health, for Healing, for Life, discuss pregnancy: “By the time it grows to be a full term baby, about a trillion cell divisions will have taken place.” “Every time a cell gives rise to a daughter cell, 75 percent or more of its volume has to be filled with water. In short, growth depends on the availability of water.”
Dr. B explains that “Water drives all chemical reactions that create life.” Specifically, Montgomery says, “[Water] provides shape and structure to cells; regulates body temperature; aids digestion and the absorption of nutrients; transports nutrients and oxygen to cells; acts as a solvent for vitamins, minerals, glucose, and amino acids; provides a foundation for chemical reactions; eliminates wastes; and is a major component of mucus and other lubricating fluids.”
Babies in the womb must receive more than enough water. Without water, nutrient absorption is suboptimal. Without water, toxin removal is hindered. The body consists of up to 80% water. All body systems rely on water for optimal function, including growth of the developing infant.
Chances are You are Dehydrated Now
Pregnant moms should be vigilant to increase their intake of water when conceiving, if not sooner. Dr. B explains, “During the intrauterine stage of cell expansion, water for cell growth of the child has to be provided by the mother.” He says most women don’t adjust their water intake until the third month of pregnancy, well after dehydration has set in.
Worse, most women begin pregnancy already short on water. It is generally regarded that 75% of the population is suffering from chronic dehydration. Virtually all are completely unaware of their water deficiency. Symptoms of dehydration, says the Mayo Clinic (reflecting “the expertise of Mayo’s 3,400 physicians and scientists”) include tiredness, irritability, and headaches. Most pregnant moms simply do not think of drinking water under these conditions.
On top of that, experts say thirst is not a reliable indicator. By the time one feels thirsty, some system of the body has already been denied water. Dr. B calls it a chronic form of “drought management.” “Further confusion lies in the idea that when we’re thirsty, we can substitute tea, coffee, or alcohol-containing beverages. This is a common error,” he says.
Paul Chek, HHP, who has worked with professional athletes around the world, says “processed fruit juices are definitely no substitute for water.” Pasteurization, loss of nutrients, and cheap synthetic “fortified” nutrients render juices more toxic than nutritious, he says in the audio program, You Are What You Eat.
Chek tells listeners that drinking juice actually requires a person to drink addition water in order to digest the juice, “So when you drink a glass of juice thinking that you’re hydrating yourself, you’re really creating a period of dehydration where the body has to pull water from the working tissues.” Only freshly juiced vegetables and fruits contain enough nutrition to warrant the loss of water. It’s best to drink within one minute of juicing, before much of that nutrition is lost.
Drinking pure filtered or glass-bottled artesian well water is the ongoing solution.
Pregnancy-Specific Symptoms of Dehydration
Perhaps worse than the tiredness, irritability, and headaches listed above, pregnant women can now add morning sickness to the list of dehydration symptoms. Dr. B writes, “Morning sickness is a thirst signal of both the fetus and the mother,” adding “It is the very first sign of dehydration of the mother and fetus together.”
Puffy eyes, swollen ankles, and other abnormal accumulations of fluid (edema) is another sign of dehydration during pregnancy. Dr. B explains that there is water stored inside and outside of our cells. When a person is dehydrated, the body operates in an emergency state of fluid regulation. Dr. B writes that the “water outside the cells is expanded to have extra water available for filtration and emergency injection into vital cells,” causing edema.
Dr, B adds that the edema can then cause other problems: “The significant rise in pressure needed to inject water into the cells becomes measurable and is labeled ‘hypertension.’” Hypertension is reported to complicate between 6-10% of all pregnancies. Dr. B says to rid edema fluid by drinking water, saying “Water is the best natural diuretic that exists.” He recommends passing “clear urine.”
A look at some of the most common pregnancy discomforts reveals that water may play a role in all:
- Fatigue—(water’s hydrolytic action)
- Hormone Regulation & Headaches—(water’s role in chemical reactions, delivery and transport)
- Upset Stomach, Heartburn, Ulcers & Constipation—(water’s role in digestion)
- Leg Cramps, Swelling, Dizziness, & Hypertension-Preeclampsia—(water’s role in fluid regulation and retention)
- Joint Pain—(water’s role in joint lubrication)
Most consider these symptoms part of normal pregnancy. As Dr. B recommends, the best medication is often water.