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For a Healthy Pregnancy, Factor in Fluids

For a Healthy Pregnancy, Factor in Fluids: Main Image
When it comes to topping off your tank, some drinks are better than others.
To ensure a healthy baby, you need about 300 extra calories per day during pregnancy from protein-rich foods, such as low-fat dairy, beans and peas, chicken, and lean beef; fruits and vegetables; and whole grains. But how much and what types of fluid should you drink if you're expecting a new family member?

Liquid logic

The changes in a pregnant woman's body are miraculous. Among the most dramatic is the addition of body fluids. Blood volume increases by 50% and amniotic fluid contributes another three to three-and-a-half cups of fluid during pregnancy.

These transformations highlight the vital role of getting enough to drink every day. But not all liquids are created equal. When it comes to topping off your tank, some drinks are better than others.

Sugar-free = no solution

Soda consumption among Americans has increased at least 500% over the past 50 years and pregnant women are no exception to this trend. But sugar soda provides none of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients needed by a growing baby. Plus, soda calories come from simple carbohydrates, which may contribute to excess weight gain and unhealthy blood sugar levels in pregnancy.

Some women turn to sugar-free soda, but this isn't a good choice either. According to a recent study of nearly 60,000 pregnant women, those who drank one or more sugar-free sodas per day faced a 38% increased risk of pre-term delivery compared with women not drinking these beverages. At four or more artificially sweetened sodas per day, the increased risk of pre-term delivery jumps to 78%.

Because the study is observational, it cannot prove cause and effect: The participants weren't randomly chosen to consume or not consume artificially sweetened sodas. Other factors among artificially sweetened soda consumers, such as poor diet or lack of exercise, could account for the higher risk of pre-term delivery in the group. Still, until more is known, why risk it? A diet soda simply isn't worth it.

Satisfying (and safer) sips

The following tips are designed to get the thirsty pregnant gal just what she needs:

  • Plain old water is best. It won't add unnecessary calories and gives your body just want it wants. Two-thirds of the body is made up of water.
  • If plain water sounds boring, try adding slices of lemons, limes, or cucumbers to your glass. Unsweetened, sparkling water is an option too.
  • To get the 8 to 12 cups of water you need daily, fill a pitcher with that amount and make sure you finish it by day's end. Or keep bottles on hand and make sure you drink the right number each day.
  • Set the alarm on your mobile phone, computer, or watch to go off every half hour. This will give you a quick prompt to savor some sips.
  • Go easy on the java. Too much caffeine is another no-no during pregnancy.

(Am J Clin Nutr; e-pub ahead of print June 30, 2010)

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.