The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.

What is dehydration during pregnancy?

Dehydration is a deficiency of water in the body. Its not a disease, but rather a state that can result from numerous different causes, both during pregnancy and when youre not pregnant. One common reason for dehydration is the failure to maintain adequate hydration by drinking enough water. During pregnancy, failing to hydrate yourself adequately can lead to dehydration faster than in non-pregnant women, because the hormonal changes in pregnancy speed up your loss of electrolytes and fluids. At the same time, as the pregnancy progresses, the volume of blood in your body increases by up to 50 percent, meaning that your body needs to hold 1.5 times as much water as it usually holds. 

Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP, morning sickness”) is another factor causing loss of both water and electrolytes, due to vomiting, but also sweating, even when you dont vomit. Nausea furthermore, can make you feel like you dont want to drink. In a small fraction of pregnant women (0.3 to 10.8 percent), rather than NVP, they suffer from whats called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). This condition features, not just frequent, excessive vomiting, but abnormalities of the liver and other organs, plus there can be fever, which dehydrates you even more.

Some pregnant women also lose water due to diarrhea, because of hormonal or dietary changes, or because of exacerbation of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Various medical conditions, including diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus, also can cause dehydration, whether you are pregnant or not, as can a variety of medications and alcohol, as well as caffeine.

How common is dehydration during pregnancy?

Dehydration is extremely common during pregnancy due to the hormonal changes, the increased need for water, and because NVP strikes up to 70 percent of pregnant women.

How is dehydration during pregnancy diagnosed?

Doctors will have a good idea that you are dehydrated based on your report of symptoms, such as thirst, dry mouth, headache, decreased urine volume, and increased darkness of your urine, and fatigue. On physical examination, you also will demonstrate signs, such as dry skin and low blood pressure.

Does dehydration cause problems during pregnancy?

Dehydration can lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI), constipation, and Braxton Hicks contractions (false labor).

Does dehydration cause problems for the baby?

Some studies suggest that maternal dehydration can lead to abnormally low levels of amniotic fluid, thus increasing the risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), preterm labor, premature birth, low birth weight, stillbirth, and possibly birth defects.

What to consider about taking medications when you are pregnant or breastfeeding:

  • The risks to yourself and your baby if you do not treat the dehydration
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are pregnant
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are breastfeeding

What should I know about using medication to treat dehydration during pregnancy?

Dehydration is treated by giving you fluids, orally, if this is adequate to bring your hydration back to normal, but otherwise through intravenous (IV) infusion of fluid and any needed electrolytes. If your dehydration leads to fever, you will be given antipyretic medication, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, which are not considered harmful during pregnancy. If you develop a UTI, you will need antibiotic medication, and several available antibiotic regimens are considered safe during pregnancy.

Who should NOT stop taking medication for dehydration during pregnancy?

Most pregnant women who need acetaminophen or paracetamol to eliminate fever resulting from dehydration during pregnancy should not stop taking the drug, because there is a concern that fever could be harmful to the fetus, or embryo. The exception is in women who have liver problems, although having liver problems in the first place already makes successful pregnancy very challenging. Once you get your hydration back to normal, your fever is likely to subside, in which case you will no longer need medication. If you are on an antibiotic regimen, you must continue until you complete the course of treatment. If you experience a reaction, your doctor can switch you do a different antibiotic.

What should I know about choosing a medication for my dehydration during pregnancy?

It is important to stay in communication with your health care provider as the release of new studies over time can change the outlook on the role of specific medications during pregnancy.

You may find Pregistrys expert reports about the medications to treat this condition here. Additional information can also be found in the sources listed below.

What should I know about taking a medication for my dehydration when I am breastfeeding?

Acetaminophen and paracetamol are thought to be relatively safe in mothers who breastfeed. There are antibiotic regimens that are safe for nursing mothers. Oral and IV fluids are likely to help you produce milk since dehydration can make it hard to produce milk in adequate volumes.

What alternative therapies besides medications can I use to treat my dehydration during pregnancy?

The most essential treatment for dehydration is rehydration.

What can I do for myself and my baby when I have dehydration during pregnancy?

Drink liquids to rehydrate, but also notify your physician, since your condition may be severe enough to warrant IV rehydration.

Resources for dehydration in pregnancy:

For more information about dehydration during and after pregnancy, contact (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or contact the following organizations:


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General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.

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