As an advice nurse, I find myself asking this question a lot—because it’s important, and especially if you call with cramping, are pregnant or are having urinary symptoms. I often hear “oh, I drink a lot,” but further questioning usually reveals this means 32 ounces (four glasses) or less. While this might seem like a good amount, it’s not enough.

Current recommendations are for at least 72 ounces of water per day for women. This increases to about 80 ounces during pregnancy and 100 ounces if you are breastfeeding. You should increase these amounts if you exercise and after time in the sun or outdoors—especially as we head into the warmer season. Coffee and caffeine have a reputation for being dehydrating, but in small quantities are actually not dehydrating, as the body retains most of the water in these beverages. On the other hand, alcohol is dehydrating, so if you choose to drink alcohol, try match each drink with an equal amount of water.

How do I know I’m drinking enough?

A great indicator of proper hydration is clear, light yellow urine and not feeling thirsty.  If you have a headache or fast heartbeat, don’t urinate often, or are dizzy, constipated or tired, you may not be drinking enough water. If you do feel thirsty, you may be slightly dehydrated already.

How will it help me?

Water is a nutrient essential for nearly all bodily functions. It also helps regulate your temperature, keeps your skin and lips hydrated, and can help you feel more energized. Proper hydration can also help prevent urinary tract infections. During pregnancy, water contributes to your baby’s growth and development. It is also important for the structures that support and protect the baby, such as the placenta and amniotic fluid. In addition, a woman’s blood volume increases by 30-50% during pregnancy, and water is critical to this increase. Finally, one of the key ingredients in breast milk is water; if a woman is breastfeeding full time and only consuming a small amount of water, there’s a good chance her body is being deprived and her milk supply may suffer.

How can I drink it all?

Set a timer on your phone, calendar, or other device. Download an app (there are many available for free). Put notes in frequently used areas. Break up the daily total into small, frequent amounts so it’s not so overwhelming. Carry a bottle with you whenever possible—preferably metal, glass or BPA-free plastic. (Exposure to Bisphenol-A (BPA) has been linked to health concerns.) Nursing moms can keep a large glass of water next to their usual nursing or pumping location and sip it throughout the nursing session.

But I don’t like water…

Try tea, preferably unsweetened and decaffeinated (if you’re pregnant, check with your provider about your tea selection). Add some fresh fruits, herbs or cucumbers to the water (check out these delicious–and pretty to look at–recipes!). Sparkling water is a great alternative to soda and feels like a treat. Maybe add a splash of juice. Coffee is acceptable in small quantities (again, check with your provider if you are pregnant). Also look for fruits and vegetables high in water content—tomatoes and watermelon are two great options.

The bottom line…

Most of us run around all day dehydrated to some degree or another. Try increasing your water intake and see how you feel!

Sarah is an advice nurse in our Peterkort North office. She attended the University of California, Davis for her first bachelor’s degree in Spanish and psychology. She moved to Portland in 2006, where she attended OHSU for her second bachelor’s degree in nursing. 


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  2. Killer, S. C., Blannin, A. K., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2014). No evidence of dehydration with moderate daily coffee intake: A counterbalanced cross-over study in a free-living population. PLoS ONE, 9(1), e84154. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084154
  3. Montgomery, K. S. (2002). Nutrition column: An update on water needs during pregnancy and beyond. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 11(3), 40-42. Retrieved from
  4. The University of Michigan Health System. (2016). The University of Michigan Health System. Retrieved March 31, 2016, from