Can Dehydration Cause You To Go Into Labour?

Can Dehydration Cause You To Go Into Labour?

Due to an increase in blood volume during pregnancy, even the most cautious mother-to-be might find herself a little dehydrated. Perhaps you’ve heard that dehydration can cause contractions and you might wonder if those contractions can lead to actual labour.

If you’re not quite full term, the thought of dehydration leading to labour might be scary. If you’re still experiencing morning sickness or hyperemesis as you enter the second and third trimesters, you might be asking how you can prevent and control dehydration to avoid contractions.

If you’re full term, you might wonder whether letting yourself get a bit dehydrated could trigger labour and be a sort of natural induction method.

Can Dehydration Cause You To Go Into Labour?

So, can dehydration cause you to go into labour? Here are the facts:

Dehydration Can Lead To Contractions

During pregnancy your blood volume increases by about 50%. The extra blood helps to support your pregnancy as it flows to the placenta, bringing your baby all the nutrition and oxygen she needs. Blood has hormones flowing through it at all times but the type and amount of hormones vary, depending on a number of factors.

Oxytocin is a hormone that triggers uterine contractions. There’s always some oxytocin flowing but an increase in oxytocin will result in contractions. Sometimes the rise is short-lived, during a brief period of dehydration, for example, or following intercourse, and you’ll experience a few contractions which eventually subside. When the rise in oxytocin remains steady, labour can be triggered.

When you become dehydrated your blood volume can decrease. This decrease causes the level of oxytocin already in your blood stream to become elevated. The rise of oxytocin can then trigger contractions.

Fortunately, in most cases where contractions are triggered by dehydration, rehydrating can halt labour that you and your baby aren’t prepared for. Oral hydration is usually sufficient, but in some situations your maternity care provider might recommend IV hydration, especially if pre-term labour becomes a threat.

What Are Symptoms of Dehydration?

The ideal situation is not to let yourself become thirsty during pregnancy. Keeping water handy at all times and sipping it throughout the day will help. This can be challenging in the first trimester, if you’re experiencing morning sickness, and even harder if you have hyperemesis gravidarum, but for most women, this simple step will prevent dehydration. If you’re thirsty, respond to your body’s signals as soon as possible.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Headaches or dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting – especially when it goes beyond your “normal” pregnancy feeling
  • Very dark and strong-smelling urine
  • Dry skin and chapped lips
  • Dry mouth and nose
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Skin losing its elasticity

Some of these sound like common pregnancy symptoms, but it’s important to note that, in some cases, some of these pregnancy symptoms might be related to dehydration and not just to pregnancy. If you make an effort to stay hydrated, you might find that some of your pregnancy ailments might feel less severe.

If you’re feeling extremely nauseous, or vomiting too frequently, be sure to contact your maternity care provider to find out if IV hydration is necessary. Addressing dehydration as soon as possible, especially when oral hydration isn’t working, can help prevent pre-term labour.

I’m Full-Term So Why Not Use Dehydration To Trigger Labour?

The last weeks of pregnancy can feel long and never-ending. While logically you know you can’t have more than a few weeks left, those few weeks might be the longest of your life. Walking, sex and trying spicy food might become daily rituals as you will your labour to begin so you can have sweet relief from swollen ankles.

In your attempt to try every old wives’ tale to trigger labour, you might have heard that dehydration can cause contractions or pre-term labour. Sounds like an easy fix to get labour going? Well, it’s not likely to work the way you hope, and if it does trigger labour, it’s not likely to be a pleasant experience.

More often than not, if your body is contracting due to dehydration, once you become hydrated your contractions will cease. It’s unlikely that you will be committed to ignoring the body’s thirst signal for the duration of labour and abstaining from drinking. And if you’re showing signs of dehydration in a hospital you’re likely to receive IV hydration. In this situation orally hydrating or receiving an IV will stop the contractions and you will not go into active labour. It’s also quite possible that the contractions related to dehydration won’t cause any cervical changes, which means you will simply be exhausted from contractions without much purpose.

If you’re successful in triggering contractions which lead to labour, you might be setting yourself up for an unnecessarily challenging labour. Labour is hard work, but it can still be a positive experience. If you add the symptoms of dehydration seen above, however, you’re not likely to have as pleasant a birth as you had hoped. Nausea, dizziness, weakness and fatigue are not symptoms you want to be dealing while in labour.

How Can I Prevent Dehydration?

As mentioned above, keeping water with you at all times can be very helpful in staying hydrated. If you’re feeling thirsty, be sure to drink something as soon as possible. You could also:

  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables that are juicy or watery – oranges, grapes, melons, cucumbers, or celery
  • Include soups and real fruit smoothies with meals or snacks
  • Avoid or limit caffeinated or sugary beverages; these act as diuretics and can cause dehydration
  • Be conscious of your environment; if you’re in the sun be sure to pay attention to your hydration
  • Make sure that if nausea or vomiting are leading to dehydration, you contact your midwife or doctor, to develop a plan to keep you adequately hydrated

Triggering full term labour can seem appealing, but pre-term contractions can be alarming. The healthiest option for you and your baby is to stay well hydrated.

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Maria Silver Pyanov is a mama of four energetic boys and one unique little girl. She is also a doula and childbirth educator. She's an advocate for birth options, and adequate prenatal care and support. She believes in the importance of rebuilding the village so no parent feels unsupported.

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