Sugar and Pregnancy


Sugar and pregnancy
Everyone knows that sugar is not good for them but most people do not know the real toll that sugar can take on their health. The health effects of sugar are unfortunately compounded during pregnancy for a number of reasons. Excessive or even moderate sugar intake during pregnancy can have a very direct and negative impact on the health of you and your baby.

Why women eat sugar during pregnancy

The biggest problem with sugar intake during pregnancy is that it is socially acceptable, unlike drugs, alcohol or smoking. Many if not most women will quit drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine as soon as they find out they are pregnant due to social pressures and concern for their baby's wellbeing. It is not only socially acceptable for pregnant women to eat sugar, but they are often encouraged by family members to eat more sugary treats and give in to their cravings. Women also believe they are finally entitled to eat whatever they please as a benefit of being pregnant.

While they may deny themselves Krispy Kremes and Haagen Daaz normally, during pregnancy anything goes because nobody will say anything and they plan on gaining weight anyway. In addition to the lack of social restraint, pregnant women also experience powerful cravings for a variety of foods, and sugary treats are often on the list. The reason for these cravings is not a physiological need for sugar however, but a need for regular meals and snacks throughout the day.

You have a much greater blood supply and extra hormones in your body during pregnancy and that means that you feel dips in your blood sugar more so than when you are not pregnant. Skipping meals is a no-no for non-pregnant people because they will reach for the first candy bar or soda they can get their hands on a few hours later. This is even more true during pregnancy. It may feel like an overpowering craving but it is simply your body crying out for fuel. Regular, small meals are the answer, not a piece of chocolate cake.

Why Sugar is Worse During Pregnancy

Eating foods with refined sugar is bad for everyone. Even in healthy people, sugar causes weight gain, tooth decay, gum disease, rapid fluctuations in blood sugar that tax the body, reduced immunity, displaced minerals, elevated risk for cardiovascular disease and premature aging. The sugar story gets worse for pregnant women.

During pregnancy, sugar is rapidly absorbed into your blood and in order to regulate this sugar, your body requires larger amounts of insulin which is released by your pancreas. If you are eating excessive or even moderate amounts of sugar, your pancreas is going to have a difficult time keeping up. If your pancreas falls short of its job, then your blood sugar levels stay elevated. This is a problem even if you not develop full blown gestational diabetes (which is insulin intolerance).

Excessive sugar intake and elevated blood sugar levels will also cause you to gain excessive weight while pregnant. While you should gain a moderate amount of weight during pregnancy, it should be due to the weight of your fetus, increased blood volume and uterine contents, breast size and other pregnancy related weight, not just growing a fatter butt. When you are simply taking in more calories than you need, you are not the only one who gains excessive weight.Your baby may also grow too large. Macrosomia is a condition where a baby grows excessively large due to a constantly high level of maternal blood sugar, generally due to gestational diabetes. This condition increases the risk of birth complications such as shoulder distocia and cesarean section. In addition, large babies of mothers with elevated blood sugar levels also have a higher risk of childhood obesity.

In addition to packing unnecessary pounds on yourself and complicating your pregnancy and birth with an overly large baby with a propensity for health problems, you will also run the additional risk of pregnancy related dental problems if you engage in excessive sugar consumption. Oral health during pregnancy is extremely important because toxins from periodontal disease have been proven to cross the placental barrier and reach your fetus, potentially causing both premature birth and birth defects. In fact, women with periodontal disease are seven times more likely to have a premature delivery than those with healthy gums. In addition, women and society in general like to use the term "eating for two" which is actually nonsense.

During your first trimester you do not require any extra calories and your body only needs an extra 300 calories during the second and third trimester, which should consist of high quality protein, vitamins and minerals because your body is literally building another human being. If you are not eating the proper nutrients to build a little human being's bones, blood, fingernails and hair, then the necessary nutrients will be sucked out of your nutritional stores, putting you at risk for lifelong health problems, osteoporosis, postpartum depression and a number of other health conditions that are entirely avoidable by eating well before, during and after pregnancy.

In addition, it makes sense to get the sugar out of your house before your child is born. Children who regularly eat sugar experience raised adrenal levels, hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, concentration difficulties, low immunity, crankiness, sleep troubles, tooth decay, obesity and weight problems and lifelong health problems and disease. Do you think it is easier to get the sugar out of your home before they are born or when they are 10 and addicted to Fruit Loops or other such nonsense?

"It doesn't matter what disease we are talking about, whether we are talking about a common cold or about cardiovascular disease, or cancer or osteoporosis, the root is always going to be at the cellular and molecular level, and more often than not insulin is going to have its hand in it, if not totally controlling it."

Forms of Sugar

Sugar is more than that white stuff you put in your coffee. Sugar is everywhere and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and it is imperative that you know the sneaky forms that sugar comes in if you plan on avoiding it. First and foremost, virtually anything in a bag, box or can has added sugar. There are a very few exceptions to that rule, such as a bag of frozen vegetables, but by and large, any pre-packaged, prepared food is going to have added sugar, period. If you insist on buying packaged foods, read the labels. Anything with a label is bound to have sugar anyway, but read for yourself. Look for any ingredient ending in 'ose'. Fructose, dextrose and glucose are all sugars. Bread has sugar. Pizza has sugar. Sodas, pastries, cakes, cookies, and other goodies all have sugar. Almost everything has some form of sugar in it.

In addition, other foods such as dairy and starches will convert to sugar in your body more rapidly than high protein foods and vegetables. It is important to become familiar with the glycemix index if you wish to lower your sugar intake.

Sugar Alternatives

Ideally you will simply forgo fast food, packaged foods, drinks and baked goods while pregnant for high quality protein and raw produce but it may be very unrealistic for you to change your eating habits cold turkey especially if your family and friends tend to indulge in the foods you are trying to avoid. White sugar is processed with chemicals and all the good nutrients are stripped from it. It is nothing short of poison and you should not touch it. Whatever you do, do not under any circumstances, substitute chemical sweeteners. They are even worse than sugar. Nutrasweet, Aspartame, Sucralose and Splenda. Poison, poison, poison. They are man made, chemical toxins. Do not dream of touching them while you are pregnant if you value your health and the health of your unborn child. They are linked to a myriad of long term, health conditions. Don't even think about it.

If the package says, "low sugar" or "sugar free", run don't walk the other way. If you would like to still have a little bit of sweetness in your life go ahead, in moderation, by choosing sweeteners made by mother nature. Enjoy these options in their raw, natural forms and keep in mind that they are still high on the glycemic index and can also contribute to tooth decay.

Blackstrap molasses is exceptionally healthy and will add delicious maltiness to coffee and baked goods. Raw, organic honey with propolis is also considered an amazing health food and is an excellent sugar replacement. Stevia is another natural sugar alternative but has not been tested on pregnant women, so you may wish to err on the side of caution. Even sugar itself is loaded with nutrients if it is raw, organic and untouched. If is is just a sugar fix you crave, get some high quality organic, fair trade chocolate. It will load you up with antioxidants and potentially keep your stress level down if you are a real sugar addict.

Women quit smoking when they find out they are pregnant. Women stop drinking when they find out they are pregnant and women should also stop eating sugar when they find out they are pregnant if they value their health and the health of their beautiful, unborn child. More resources about sugar dangers: Pregnancy: High-Normal Blood Sugar Risky - Sugar in Urine During Pregnancy - Dr. Greene recommends blood test for glucose, called HgA1C Image source: Christine Mahler on Flickr:

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  • Sheryl Lyon
Comments 65
  • Bedward

    Sugar is a killer. Most processed foods contain corn syrup which is probably the most addictive sugar there is. The manufacturers do this to create a dependency much like nicotine.

    Did you know that one of the holistic treatments for cancer is to deprive the body of sugar. Apparently cancer cells love sugar. They are always in our system albeit dormant but sugar awakens them.

  • Natural Pregnancy
    Natural Pregnancy

    @Caryn Meeks:

    I am sorry to hear that. Junk food and candy is not a smart choice anytime but especially not during pregnancy.

    Perhaps you could try a subscription to Healthy Pregnancy magazine or get her some books on pregnancy nutrition. You can also try to provide her with healthy snacks like fruit or nuts and make sure she has a high quality food based prenatal and omega 3 supplement.

    Many people do not respond well to unsolicited advice and often have their minds made up from other information sources. It is too bad but there often is not much you can do. I wish you the best.

  • Caryn Meeks
    Caryn Meeks

    Thanks for the info my sons girlfriend (17) is preganant she is a junk food junkie and she doesnt think all the candy she eats wont hurt the baby ant suggestions???

  • Natural Pregnancy
    Natural Pregnancy

    @26 weeks and a 3 week cold:

    Thanks for writing 26 weeks and congratulations on your pregnancy! I am the author of the article, and it was not meant to be a strong attitude toward pregnant women. I am also currently pregnant (27 weeks) and I fully understand the temptations and ailments that pregnant women face.

    Most people do not realize how damaging sugar can be to the human body (particularly refined, processed sugars) whether you are pregnant or not and the article is merely trying to convey a sense of urgency because the damage from sugar is heightened during pregnancy.

    On a personal note, I am trying to avoid sugar during this pregnancy and I did not with my first (because I did not know any better, like most women) and I have not had any nausea or vomiting at all. The only time I have felt queasy is after something sweet to eat. Could be coincidence but I doubt it.

    I hope you get over your cold soon and enjoy your third trimester!

  • 26 weeks and a 3 week cold
    26 weeks and a 3 week cold

    Blimey. Thanks for the info although a little compassion for how difficult pregnancy is wouldnt go astray. The list of indulgences pregnant women can no longer participate in is long enough, as is the list of pregnancy related ailments women endure. We dont go out of our way to harm ourselves or our babies, we’re merely indulging in sugar as part of trying to cope. Thankfully your article has made me aware that sugar may be contributing to why I’ve had a cold for 3 weeks, but the strong attitude coming from the author is very much unappreciated.

  • Natural Pregnancy
    Natural Pregnancy

    Thanks for your input Bedward. Sugar is certainly bad for everyone. It is so much worse for a developing infant. It may be hard but it is in everyone’s best interest to avoid sugar while pregnant.

  • James

    I never knew that sugar can be so much harmful during pregnancy. I’ve seen women bunging upon chocolates, ice-creams, and other sweet stuffs. They’ll be sad when they’ll come to know about it. But nothing is more important for pregnant women than the baby growing inside them. Well i’ll keep it in my mind for my wife when i’ll have the baby.

  • Krys

    Thanks a lot for the post, I did never know that either.

    We’re planning to have a baby in a year, so I’m trying to gain as much information on the topic as possible and I believe that your blog is the perfect place to start.

  • megh

    Wow! I did not know that!!! But its a good thing… I have been craving nothing but fruit fruit fruit my whole pregnancy thus far…. granted I’m only 12 weeks. But I even look at sweets and it makes me nauseous… I wonder why…

  • Natural Pregnancy
    Natural Pregnancy


    Fruits are full of fiber and nutrients. The fiber is essential during pregnancy to prevent constipation and obviously the nutrients are needed to have a healthy baby and to stay healthy yourself. You should obviously be eating fruit as a part of a balanced diet but you should not avoid fruit. It is an excellent, healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth without resorting to processed, refined sugar products.

  • rosey

    What about fruits and all the natural forms? Are those bad too? Should I avoid all the fruit I have been eating because I have really been eating lots and lots?

  • Preggo24

    Today I couldn’t help myself and I ate a thing of cotton candy, some sour straws, candy ciggarettes, sour skittles, and drank a mountain dew. I feel so bad . . but before getting pregnant I was addicted to sugar bad and I have been trying to control myself. I have only gained 3 punds since becoming preggo and I am at 21 weeks. I thought I was doing really good. . but today I couldn’t help myself. What can this do to my baby . . you know having an occasional slip???

  • telema ikisa
    telema ikisa

    wow!this is more like an eye opener than any other thing i’ve read on pregnanacy.11weeks pregnant & notice that i bleed whenever i take food containing sugar.could this also be connected,then i have to stay clear

  • Natural Pregnancy
    Natural Pregnancy

    @Web traffic:

    Obviously we have no idea what your blood sugar levels will be during your second pregnancy. Diet and walking will certainly help though.

  • Web traffic
    Web traffic

    Hi, I had pregnancy sugar on 30th week of my first baby. I am planning to have next my blood sugar is normal and i am in diet and daily walking. will i have blood sugar high during my second pregnancy.whether it is possible to avoid gestational diabetes during second pregnancy. Please tell me?

  • Makeyta Smith
    Makeyta Smith

    Im 32 weeks pregnant and I eat an excessive amount of sugar I consume about 1/2 cup in a day. Its something I have to eat in a days period. I continue to eat my normal food that the baby and I need to stay healthy and it doesn’t interfere with my diet. My question is will this effect me or my baby down the line?

  • Hasan

    Hi, my wife is 35 weeks pregnant and her blood sugar level has been high since 27th week of her pregnancy.Fasting blood remain steady at 5.5 but 2hrs after break fast she had 6.5 than 7.1 and lastly 10.1 so doctor prescribed insulin in our last visit.Can anyone please suggest whether we should follow doctor’s advice for insulin or try to keep the sugar level steady through diet.Any suggestions will be very helpful.Thanks

  • Hasan

    Hi, my wife is 35 weeks pregnant and her blood sugar level has been high since 27th week of her pregnancy.Fasting blood remain steady at 5.5 but 2hrs after break fast she had 6.5 than 7.1 and lastly 10.1 so doctor prescribed insulin in our last visit.Can you anyone please suggest whether we should follow doctor’s advice for insulin or try to keep the sugar level steady through diet.Any suggestions will be very helpful.Thanks

  • admin

    @Alice Zemelko:

    A lot of women are only able to eat carbs (crackers, etc) when they are experiencing morning sickness. Nothing wrong with that. Eat what you can and get through it. Great luck with your pregnancy and I hope you feel better soon. :)

  • Alice Zemelko
    Alice Zemelko

    I’m now at 14 weeks and have had all day nausea since about 6 weeks. I was set to eat a healthy diet trying fresh fruits and veggies but my nausea has gotten worse. All I can tolerate are more sugary foods like yogurt, dried fruit, snack bars, and muffins (usually in the morning).

    Just the site or smell of fresh fruit or trying to cook veggies is so difficult right now. I just hope this nausea subsides so I can begin to cook and eat a little healthier.

  • gestational diabetes diet plan
    gestational diabetes diet plan

    I like this posting! It helps a lot of people especially those who are suffering from gestational diabetes. Aside from the details mentioned above, are there any other information you can share?

  • Corrinne

    my friends smoked while they were pregnant and their children turned out fine.

  • admin

    @Makeyta Smith:

    Why do you have to eat an excessive amount of sugar every day?

  • Matt

    My sister in law is pregnant and overweight. My wife keeps trying to tell her to cut back on sugar knowing that it could affect the childs concentration and health later in life. She just doesn’t get it. I hope that she will soon realise. Maybe I should put her onto this blog but it’s got to the point now where she just doesn’t want to take our advice. Perhaps I will email it to her from a secret email address!

  • Jane

    I gave up smoking in order to have a baby and feel I was giving him the best chance. I didn’t think about the sugar problem at the time, which is 20 yrs ago now but I think awareness of the sugar issue has grown a lot in recent years. I ate healthily whilst pregnant and felt great throughout the pregnancy and my son came out perfect. But I’m a bit of a chocaholic still now!

  • Stan

    when I was pregnant I would get a quick sugar boost and then feel tired. I stayed away from it in the 2nd trimester.

  • Rachel martin
    Rachel martin

    Avoiding sugar during pregnancy is certainly right. Try some other alterative in place of sugar. It is just a matter of time till delivery!!!

  • Biola

    i am really scared reading dis just now. i am 35weeks pregnant and i have been on sugar ever since. can i stop now or is it too late?

  • Jennifer

    need a SAFE sugar-free fix that’s safe for your baby? try this USDA certified organic Mint Chocolate Rooibos tea ( from LeafSpa Organic Tea. It has zero caffeine, zero calories, but a great taste that will make you think you’re drinking a mint chocolate milkshake!

  • Jeannetta Blue
    Jeannetta Blue

    I have been experiencing a great deal of nausea in my pregnancy after eating sugar… Especially over the last couple of weeks. I don’t want to endanger my baby :( and I feel bad for exposing her to it thus far. I am 25 weeks now. I plan to stop eating refined sugar TODAY! Thank you for the encouragement!

  • Stan

    It’s amazing how the things we injest so much each day can have such a substantial impact on our lives – scary to think what bad eating habbits over a lifetime can do!

    Thank you for this post! it was a pleasure to read!

  • Side effects of aspartame
    Side effects of aspartame

    Sugar is okay in moderate amounts. Beware of the dangers of aspartame though! I’d much rather choose sugar.

  • ravivarma

    My wife is 35 weeks pregnant and observed gestational diabet ,Now in hospital and doctor saying need to control by diet and medication ,but my question is how it will effect my baby after birth and later stage ? & how to control if any complications ?

  • John

    Candy bar and chocolate are my favorite. I never thought that sugar would cause so many problems during pregnancy. Although I am not a girl, I think I need to intake less sugar from now on. I don’t want that happen to me. According to reports, Luo Han Guo would a good alternative.

  • Rachelle

    I’d like to know where I find MORE info on sugar, what chemicals they put into it and how I can get my family off sugar altogether… :)

  • Angela

    Over the last two days I have quit sugar due to my son having a parasitic issue and having to go sugar (and lots of other things) free. Made me think about my own inner health. The only thing is, now I have a massive sugar withdrawal headache. Is this safe, or is it too much of a sudden change for my body while I’m pregnant? I’m a little concerned as I’m only 9 weeks.

  • Tomie' Webb
    Tomie' Webb

    Wow…I forgot about the effects sugar has on the body…I avoided sugar before I became prego…But with this pregnancy Ive been craving citrus and sometimes the acid in the actual fruit gives me heart burn…so I started eating lemon candies and drinking fruity drinks with sugar…I thought that would be better for me than the artificial sweetners for the baby…but now I think I understand why I get a headache and my heart races more now than normal…Its from the freaking sugar! How could I have missed that…I was reading the ingrediants of the foods Ive been eating and trying to figure out what I may be ingesting that would trigger this feeling in me…thanks for your info…it helped me out alot

  • Sally

    Thanks for this article. I already knew this, but I’ve been having a hard time resisting sugar and I needed a strong reminder of why I don’t want to consume it. I’m at 10 weeks and only carby foods appeal to me. I’m trying to just eat healthy carbs – making whole wheat muffins for breakfast, and sweetening yogurt with stevia.

  • Chennaimoms

    Chennaimoms Presents E-book on Natural Home Remedies for Women Expectant Mothers ; Diet for healthy pregnancy and food items to avoid during pregnancy etc., Also natural remedies for colic, jaundice, teething, acidity, beauty, hair loss and weight loss etc.,

  • Dean

    Can we have a healthy baby if I am HIV – and my partner is HIV + with a natural pregnancy?

  • Dave

    I know that sugar is not very good for the body. It (especially the fructose portion) is technically a metabolic poison. It doesn’t have an instant effect, but over time, it is very bad for the body. The theory now is that it leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, and other related ailments. So proceed with caution!

  • Nadine

    I doubt sugar is necessarily related to nausea. That may be some particular women’s experience, but lots of women become sick after smelling cooking meat or after smelling something raunchy, like rotting food or garbage. Smoke makes my stomach turn. Also, I usually feel the sickest after I wake up the morning, when I’ve had nothing to eat whatsoever, nevermind sugar.

    I agree that indulging in sugar is not a good idea, though, pregnant or not. At the same time, a lot of articles out there on pregnancy really seem like scaremongering. Lots of women do all the wrong things during pregnancy and their babies turn out fine. That’s not to say you shouldn’t care about what you do, but there’s not point in working up anxiety about it. Just eat healthy and exercise – that’s all you can do.

    I would like to see a more specific guide as to how much sugar a day is acceptable when pregnant.

  • Michael

    I particularly agree with the raw honey strategy- but just to be clear, it needs to be raw, unpasteurized honey, because the usual pasteurized honey that is most prevalent has an even higher glycemic index than table sugar.
    Also agree with your good call for high quality chocolate- there’s some out there that’s as high as 88% or even 90% cacao, and the higher the cacao, the lower the sugar. Takes some getting used to if you usually have lower percentage cacao or even milk chocolate, but once you do it’s well worth it…

  • Jillian

    No sugar this, no sugar that. Having a baby does not mean that you can’t indulge a little bit. It should be the same theory we should all live by every day, pregnant or not. Everything in moderation. Just make smart food choices in general. A piece of cake or a cookie or bowl of ice cream is not going to ruin anything. Just be smart about it and don’t make it an every day occurance or one of your main meals.

  • beth

    You’re right about the sense of entitlement and eating while pregnant. I’ve experienced this. Then I have to pull back and ask what my baby is entitled to. I eat a little honey when I get the cravings badly.

  • lola

    Sugar is a killer. Most processed foods contain corn syrup which is probably the most addictive sugar there is. The manufacturers do this to create a dependency much like nicotine.

    Did you know that one of the holistic treatments for cancer is to deprive the body of sugar. Apparently cancer cells love sugar. They are always in our system albeit dormant but sugar awakens them.

  • Hope

    Thank you for this article. Unlike some others, I don’t feel it’s confrontational or “in your face”. It’s the honest to God truth. To sugar-coat the truth (no pun intended) would not do us any good… we need to understand the urgency of changing our ways of eating.

    My husband and I just started trying to get pregnant this week. For the last 3 months I have cut out sugar completely from my diet, except for a bit of natural oligofructose and sensible portions of fruit. I have never had so much energy, concentration, or felt so balanced emotionally. I also don’t feel the constant “need” to eat anymore, especially when it comes to junk food. I plan to continue with the no-sugar lifestyle during pregnancy, other than the natural sugar in fruit. NO packaged or processed foods. They are the cause of SO many health problems!

    If you are addicted to sugar (I was, in a big way), just try to cut it all out for 1 week. Eat protein, lots of vegetables, and only 100% whole grains without added sugar (check the package, “whole wheat” is not whole grain) for one whole week. Afterward, you will barely crave sugar, and if you keep it up, eventually sugar will be too sweet for your palette and you will easily opt for natural foods. Trust me, I’ve turned from fast food/processed crap to a healthy person, lost 30 pounds in the last 4 months, and am so much more ready for pregnancy then I ever thought I could be!!

  • Lou

    This article was very informative but very much ‘in your face!’ I’m 17wks pregnant with my second child, I’ve been carrying extra weight since my early teens I’m now 21. My knowledge is ‘Your damned if u do and your damned if you don’t!!’ people all over the world whether they’re preg or not, drink alcohol or not, smoke or not die or get severely Ill every year whether they lead a healthy lifestyle or whether they indulge in all the wrong stuff. Life is extremely short and during pregnancy women are constantly stressed and worried about their unborn child. My advice is Eat as healthy as possible, get excersise and enjoy your pregnancy. There are too many “DONTS” out there, just be sensible.

  • AMBW

    @Andrews, we are terribly sorry for your loss. Losing a pregnancy is an unspeakable tragedy. We are not doctors and cannot begin to speculate why pregnancies end but in our experience, we have never heard of sugar causing spontaneous miscarriage.

  • Andrews

    A wonderful discovery. At least all pregnant women should read this article. My wife was taking all kinds energy drinks, glucose, sugar and other soft drink to give her energy. Unfortunately the child died the womb before birth. Can the death be attributed to the sugar. If yes, how and why?

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