Pregnant mammas go to great lengths to ensure their little ones are happy, safe and healthy inside when complications strike. Some mums remain on bedrest for weeks. Others have to adhere to a strict diet or have daily injections.
With her amniotic fluid low, 27-year-old Cally Hibbert found herself drinking up to nine litres of water a day (that’s around 63 litres a week – imagine the trips to the loo!) to help give her baby the greatest chance of survival.
Although it seems crazy, her excessive drinking may have saved her son.
Ruptured membranes at just 18 weeks
Pregnancy can be an exciting, but terrifying time. You hope for the best, but never know if something bad might happen and you might be left with the heartbreak of losing the little one inside.
For Cally Hibbert, this day came at 18 weeks gestation when her waters unexpectedly broke while folding the washing in her UK home.
After being rushed to hospital, doctors told Cally and her partner, Jason Clark, that she had pre-term pre-labour rupture of the membranes, a condition that affects around six to 19% of pregnancies.
Less than 10% chance of survival
However, at this early stage in pregnancy, her baby was still too small to survive labour. Just ten per cent of babies born at 18 weeks survive the mum’s waters breaking. She was advised she should prepare to go into labour and miscarry her son.
Heartbroken and with her amniotic fluid low, Cally prepared to lose her baby. But the next day she hadn’t gone into labour yet. She had a scan, revealing her son was still alive, his heart beating steadily.
“It was heartbreaking to think our baby would soon be gone, especially as I could still feel him moving inside me,” Cally says.
“I was [then] told a termination was the best option.”
The 27-year-old mum already had two children at home. She had also experienced four miscarriages in the past and was well aware of the pain that comes with losing a baby. But she wasn’t willing to lose another, not without doing everything she could to help him.
‘I couldn’t terminate when his heart was beating’
Cally went searching for an alternative. She found it through Google and a Facebook page called Little Heartbeats, which supports women who experience pre-term pre-labour rupture of membranes.
She soon discovered that there was evidence suggesting that drinking more water could help replenish the amniotic fluid.
“The more the mother drinks, the more the baby urinates which increases the amniotic fluid, so it made sense that drinking more might help replenish some of the waters at least,” Cally explains.
“I had nothing to lose so thought I would try.”
Real life water baby
Although there was a risk of infection, Cally’s doctors agreed with her request. Cally tried to drink seven to nine litres of water a day which she admits, “wasn’t easy.”
Her theory, however, worked. Cally’s son continued to grow and she gave birth at 28 weeks gestation. Baby Leo was born on July 16, 2016, weighing less than 2 pounds. Although he remained in NICU for several weeks, he beat the odds and is now a healthy two-year-old.
“All mums think their kids are a miracle but Leo really is. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a little terror sometimes, but we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Cally says. “[He] is our real-life water baby.”
What does the doctor say?
Melbourne based obstetrician, fertility specialist and gynaecologist Dr Joseph Sgroi agrees that water may replenish the amniotic fluid, but doesn’t recommend this level of water intake for any woman, pregnant or otherwise.
“First off, [we need] to understand the fluid around baby. The fluid is actually the baby’s wee. That’s right, the baby is swimming around in his own urine. The baby swallows this fluid and some of it is absorbed by the membranes that surround baby.
Drinking water can increase the fluid around the baby, improve the function of the placenta and drive fluid from the maternal circulation into the amniotic sac.
“However, if a woman’s waters break, then the amniotic fluid is likely to continue to leak so this replacement strategy won’t necessarily work.
In cases where the fluid around baby is low for other reasons then the strategy of water intake may increase the fluid around baby.”
But before you try this at home, always consult your doctor.
“The maximum amount of fluid I’d recommend is two litres per day,” Dr Joe adds. “Any more and you risk disrupting the salts within the body that can impact the function of the heart.”
For more pregnancy tips from Dr Joe, have a look at our guide to pregnant sex.