It’s common for pregnant mothers to experience intense cravings for certain foods. Pregnancy causes a variety of hormone changes that can then trigger these cravings. While the prevailing notion is that of a pregnant woman wanting pickles and ice cream, the reality is usually a little less extreme. One of the most common cravings is the desire for something sweet. This begs the question: is eating sugar safe during pregnancy?
Moderation is Key
Sugar, chemically referred to as glucose, has an effect on everyone. When sugar is eaten, blood glucose levels increase, which triggers an increase in insulin. In a healthy, non-diabetic person, the body will tolerate this increase and return to a normal level.
Your doctor will be able to advise you on your diabetic status. You can indulge your sweet tooth every now and then, in moderation. A moderate amount of sugar intake is considered 25g or less per a day. If a pregnant mother consistently eats a large amount of sugar, a variety of issues can occur.
If an expecting mother is diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, they should limit eating all sugars (including fruit and starches). Gestational Diabetes is typically diagnosed via a glucose tolerance test performed around 24-28 weeks gestation. If you are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, your blood glucose may be measured sooner or more often. Treatment usually consists of dietary and lifestyle changes including strictly limiting sugar intake while maintaining a consistent exercise routine.
Increased Weight Gain
Increased sugar intake can lead to more weight gain. The recommended amount is 25-35 pounds for a mother that was a healthy weight previous to becoming pregnant. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can lead to a larger than average baby (Macrosomia). Babies over 9.5 pounds can be harder to deliver and are more likely to require a Cesarean section.
Sugar is not good for your teeth. It can erode enamel and cause cavities. Oral health is often overlooked during pregnancy and too much sugar can exacerbate any existing problems.
Foods and beverages that have a large amount of refined sugar typically offer little to no nutritional value other than calories. A pregnant mom that consumes a lot of these processed foods would be foregoing something with additional vitamins and minerals that would be good for the developing baby. Soda, in particular, has a lot of empty calories and should be limited during pregnancy.
While it may be tempting to use sugar substitutes in an effort to lessen sugar consumption, artificial sweeteners should also be used in moderation. Most doctors agree that they are generally safe during pregnancy in small doses.
Try Eating Fruit
Instead of reaching for candy or ice cream, pregnant moms should try to eat fruits instead. Fruit is naturally sweet and can satisfy a craving while offering much better nutritional value.