Can Eating Too Much Sugar In Pregnancy Harm The Baby?

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Occasionally indulging in sweets is not bad. Sugar is necessary for the body, but you cannot have too much of it, whether pregnant or not. Here, MomJunction tells you about consumption of sugar during pregnancy, how it affects you and your baby, and how to choose better options to satiate your sweet cravings.

Can You Eat Sugar While Pregnant?

You can eat sugar and sugary foods as long as it is not in large quantities. But if you have gestational diabetes, you should be extra careful about your sugar intake.

Also, note that there is more refined sugar in candies, cookies, cakes and soft drinks that provide zero nutrition. If you are having them often, then you need to replace them with healthier options such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that have natural sugars.

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How Much Sugar Can You Safely Consume During Pregnancy?

There are no standard recommendations for sugar consumption during pregnancy. The ideal sugar intake for you depends on your metabolic rate, blood sugar levels, and weight. In any case, it is good to limit the consumption of sugar to 25 grams or less in a day (1).

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Can Eating Too Much Sugar In Pregnancy Harm The Baby?

Overeating sugary foods or carbohydrates may have an impact on the growing baby. Also, excess sugar in the blood due to gestational diabetes or uncontrolled type 2 diabetes can harm the baby.

Extra sugar can cross the placenta and increase the fetus’ blood sugar levels. This may result in increased insulin production in the baby’s body and make the baby grow larger, a condition referred to as macrosomia. Delivering a large baby can lead to complications such as the need for cesarean section and premature birth (2).

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[Read: Jaggery During Pregnancy]

What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Excess Sugar Consumption?

Excess sugar adds empty calories and deprives nutrition that you need during pregnancy.

  1. Aggravates pregnancy symptoms: Symptoms such as vomiting, heartburn and mood swings might get worse with excess sugar intake.
  1. Causes fatigue: Sugary foods provide empty calories and lack nutrition. They contain sucrose, cause a temporary spike in blood sugar, leaving you lethargic and tired.
  1. Leads to nutritional deficiency: Food cravings are normal during pregnancy. But if you crave sweets more than other foods, be careful not to overindulge, for sugars add empty calories leading to possible weight gain and nutrient deficiency.
  1. May cause excessive weight gain: Too much of sugar might make you gain unhealthy weight.
  2. Acute fatty liver (AFL): A diet rich in fructose-containing sugars can lead to fatty liver syndrome. It can also affect the fetal metabolism and thus lead to obesity or type II diabetes later in life (3).
  3. Might increase the risk of preeclampsia: High sugar intake influences the risk of preeclampsia in pregnant women (4).To avoid these possible risks, cut down the sugar intake.

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Tips To Reduce Sugar Consumption During Pregnancy

To limit sugar intake:

  1. Limit sugar-containing foods and snacks. Or, you can stop eating refined sugar altogether. If that’s not possible, at least cut down on cakes, ice creams, pastries and other snacks with added sugar.
  1. Include sweet fruits as much as possible. If you crave for sugars, eat fruits such as mango, pineapple, and strawberry. Avoid fruit juices as they contain excess sugars.

[Read: Sugarcane Juice During Pregnancy]

  1. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Their harmful effects last even after pregnancy. Include better alternatives such as coconut sugar or honey.
  1. Pay attention to ingredients in packaged foods. Know the amount of sugar present in foods such as breakfast cereal, peanut butter, sauces and such. Consider only those with low sugar content.
  1. Do not keep candies, ice creams, cookies or any sugary foods at home. Buy them only when you want to have something sweet.
  1. Limit your sugar intake or find alternatives. You can avoid excess jam on bread, use one teaspoon of sugar instead of two for your tea or coffee and limit chocolate or ice cream consumption.

Or, you can just replace white sugar and artificial sweeteners with healthier alternatives.

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Healthy Foods That Lower Blood Sugar In Pregnant Women

Improved diet and exercise can help lower blood sugar levels naturally. Healthy foods you should include in the diet are:

  1. Low-glycemic foods: Include more of low-glycemic index foods such as whole grains, beans, barley, oatmeal, fruits, and vegetables. These take longer to digest and prevent spikes in blood sugar.
  1. Probiotics: Probiotics are live, stomach-friendly bacteria that promote digestion. They regulate carbohydrate metabolism and maintain blood sugar levels. Natural yogurt is one of the best probiotics you can take (5).
  1. Fiber foods: Insoluble fiber maintains digestive health, and soluble fiber improves sugar levels. Oats and legumes have the highest levels of soluble fibers, while insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat foods. Fruits and vegetables contain both kinds of fiber.
  1. Proteins and healthy fats: Include more lean protein sources such as nuts, eggs, and poultry. Protein controls blood sugar levels, keeps you full and boosts energy. Healthy fats found in nuts, olive oil and avocados also keep you satiated and prevent craving for unhealthy foods.

Still got questions about eating sugar in pregnancy?

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[Read: Benefits Of Dates In Pregnancy]

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can sugar cause heartburn during pregnancy?

Sugar will not directly cause heartburn, but it can make your condition worse. Sugar found in certain foods such as chocolate, citrus fruits, peppermint, fatty foods and caffeinated beverages can trigger heartburn symptoms and should be avoided.

2. Can sugar cause diarrhea during pregnancy?

Sugar doesn’t cause diarrhea but can aggravate it. Avoid high-sugar fruit juices and soft drinks when you already have diarrhea. They draw more water into the stomach and make diarrhea worse.

3 Can sugar terminate the pregnancy?

No. Excess sugar consumption can only make you nauseous, but it will not terminate the pregnancy.

4. Is there a connection between high blood sugar and autism?

According to research, pregnant women who had gestational diabetes by the 26th week of pregnancy are 42% more likely to have children with autism. Researchers postulated that exposure of the uterus to high blood sugar would affect the brain development of the baby and increase the risk of developmental disorders (6).

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[Read: Custard Apple In Pregnancy]

Sugar can be addictive, which is perhaps why you cannot stop yourself from having more than one cupcake or donut. You crave for more. And the more you eat, the higher your blood sugar can go, which is bad for the pregnancy. So replace refined white sugar with natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables to stay safe, healthy and satiated during your pregnancy.

How do you manage your sugar cravings? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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Claudia Wilson

Claudia Wilson is a registered dietitian/ nutritionist, a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition (CSSD), and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). She founded ALL of NUTRITION and authored ONE-TWO PUNCH. She holds a BS in Public Health and an MS in Nutrition. Claudia spent 10 years as sports nutritionist for the University of Utah Athletic Department and in... more

Rebecca Malachi

Rebecca is a pregnancy writer and editor with a passion for delivering research-based and engaging content in areas of fertility, pregnancy, birth, and post-pregnancy. She has been into health and wellness writing since 2010. She received her graduate degree in Biotechnology and Genetics from Loyola Academy, Osmania University and obtained a certification in ‘Nutrition and Lifestyle in Pregnancy’ from Ludwig... more