You will know that excessive sugar intake is bad for your health. Whether you’re pregnant or not, you should keep the amount of refined sugar you eat to a minimum. There are many people now advocating for sugar-free diets, but just keeping the sugar to a minimum will help to avoid various health problems.
But have you ever considered what you could do to an unborn child? If you’re pregnant, you’ll hear more about keeping your sugar intake to a minimum and what you could do to yourself. Your doctor will also likely mention there are risks to your baby. What many doctors don’t go in are what those risks are exactly. Their thinking is that the idea of risks should make you comply with their advice.
You likely want to know what you could exactly do to your child. It’s important to understand all the dangers. So, with that in mind, this is your all in one guide on how excessive sugar intake during pregnancy can affect your child.
Sugar Shouldn’t Be Demonized
Let’s start by saying that this doesn’t mean you have to cut out all sugar. Even in pregnancy, you can still enjoy some. And we’re not just talking about the natural sugars in fruits. You can still have some refined sugar now and then.
If you tried to cut out all, you could find yourself worse off. Sugar is highly addictive and withdrawals symptoms are common. They can include headaches and shaking, as well as cravings and a low mood. Your hormones are already causing a problem during pregnancy.
Rather than cut out all sugar, opt for a moderate amount. Therefore, we’re focusing on “excessive” sugar intakes. Check out more info on how long do sugar withdrawals last here.
Making Your Pregnancy Symptoms Worse
Excessive amounts of sugar can make some of your general discomforts in pregnancy worse. You’re more at risk of developing heartburn and indigestion. The digestive system is already sluggish, but your body can react negatively to the refined sugar.
It’s not just your heartburn that is worse. All your pregnancy symptoms can be made worse through the excessive intake of sugar. You are more likely to suffer harsh mood swings and deal with nausea and vomiting more. They’re bad enough already. Do you really want to make them worse?
And with bad pregnancy symptoms, you can affect your child. Excessive vomiting can lead to a nutritional deficiency for your child. Your baby will try to take as many nutrients from you as possible, but if they’re not there because you haven’t eaten anything for a while, you put both you and the baby at risk. You’re also at risk of dehydration!
That feeling of fatigue will also be worse. Yes, tiredness is extremely normal in pregnancy, especially in the first and third trimesters. You’re growing a human and your body is working extremely hard to do that. But the excessive sugar intake is making it worse.
Many of us will reach for sugar for a quick energy boost. This is the worst thing you can do. While you do get a quick boost, you end up with an even quicker crash. Your body burns through the sugar quickly, leaving you feeling more tired afterward than you did before you opted for the quick fix. If you really want to boost your energy levels, you need to look for the long-term benefits.
How does the fatigue affect your baby? Well, you can also make your baby sluggish. That sugar doesn’t just power you. It powers your baby and you can cause the energy increases and crashes in your child.
There’s No Nutritional Benefit in Sugar
Refined sugar offers absolutely no nutritional benefit for you or your baby. It’s not like natural sugars that are usually packed with fiber and other nutrients. All you get is sugar and fat in the foods and not the healthy type of fat!
When you indulge in the foods, you end up consuming what are known as empty calories. Your whole body will feel the issue. You don’t get the protein for the muscles, the body doesn’t get the healthy fats for the brain and heart health, and you don’t get the fiber for your digestive system. The body starts to react negatively, making your indigestion worse and causing more bloating and pain.
And your baby will also suffer. Your baby relies on you for nutrients. If you don’t get the nutrients into your body, your baby can’t develop properly. In some cases, it’s possible for your baby to be underdeveloped or suffer from health problems due to the lack of nutrients. Some of the most common issues are brittle bones, being underweight, or brain defects.
You want to focus on a diet that is nutritionally balanced. Have the sugar now and then, but you want to focus more on the other vitamins and minerals to keep both you and baby’s health in order.
Weight Gain Is Far More Common
Because of the empty calories, your body doesn’t quite acknowledge that you’re consuming the calories. You end up hungry sooner than you would if you had a balanced meal. This can lead to excessive weight gain. Studies have shown that pregnant women who consume excess sugars are more likely to gain excess weight. Sure, some weight gain is expected, but you want to keep it to a healthy window (depending on the weight you started at).
Women who gain the weight in pregnancy will also find it harder to get rid of that weight afterward. You likely won’t change your food intake, so you end up continuing the problem of excessive sugar and more weight gain.
All this is bad for your baby. Being overweight can lead to babies with lower birth weights and more difficult labors. You’re more at risk of needing a C-section, which puts you at further risks of hemorrhaging and infection. Your healing time will also take longer.
High Risk of Gestational Diabetes and Other Health Problems
Women with a higher intake of sugar are more at risk of developing gestational diabetes. This is when you develop diabetes during pregnancy and it usually goes away afterward. However, it can develop into normal diabetes. Either way, gestation diabetes is something that you want to avoid.
Those who develop gestational diabetes are more likely to have children with the health condition. You can also have low birth weight babies and go into pre-term labor. Your body hasn’t had the chance to fully develop, which puts your baby at many health risks, including death.
Those that do survive are more likely to develop diabetes in their childhood. This can be Type I diabetes, which is almost impossible to reverse and usually requires medication for the rest of their life. Even if your child doesn’t develop diabetes, they are more likely to crave sugar. Remember that refined sugar is highly addictive and that includes two babies growing in the womb. As your baby gets older, the cravings for sugar get stronger and they’re more at risk of obesity and other health problems.
If it’s not gestational diabetes, the higher sugar consumption can also lead to a risk of pre-eclampsia. This is found in women with high blood pressure, protein in their urine, and swelling in their hands, feet and/or face. Pre-eclampsia is an extremely dangerous disease and can lead to pre-term labor, since giving birth is the only way to rectify it.
Your Baby Is at a Higher Risk of Heart Disease
Babies that have been exposed to excessive sugar intakes during pregnancy are more likely to have thinner blood vessels. This can put them at higher risk of high blood pressure and poor heart health. Heart disease is a serious risk and factors can appear in children as young as seven years old.
With thinner blood vessels, the blood finds it harder to work around the whole body. If it’s not the heart affected, other organs are. The blood pressure increases because the body is having to work harder. On top of this, there’s the chance that diabetes or other health problems will play a factor.
Your baby’s body can’t develop properly in the womb. The best way to help avoid future health problems is by following a healthy and balanced diet. Get plenty of nutrients to help with the development of the blood vessels.
There’s a Chance of Higher Allergy Risks
Doctors are still looking for the reasons allergies appear in patients. Children are at risk of developing all types of allergies, with soy, milk, and peanut allergies being the most common. One of the links to allergies is high sugar consumption in the mothers during pregnancy. Some studies have shown that higher sugar levels can lead to a high chance of developing allergic asthma than those whose mothers didn’t consume much sugar.
This is something that still needs research within. It’s currently unclear just why allergy risks are higher. One of the most commonly believed reasons is inflammation within the body, especially in the lungs. High sugar consumption leads to the inflammatory response, as the hormones become out of sync. With more inflammation in the lungs and body, the immune system can view the wrong particles as being damaging.
However, it’s worth noting that the increased allergy risks have also been linked to other reasons. An increase in pollutants in the air and exposure to some microbes have also been linked to allergic reactions. This is something that experts will research further to understand more about how the mother’s diet can cause them.
How to Minimize the Risks
Now that you know the dangers, you’ll want to do everything you can to minimize the risks of health problems. The best thing you can do is reduce the number of refined sugars that you eat. Make a switch to using sweeteners and natural sugars.
For example, you don’t need to use table sugar in your tea. Opt for a little Stevia instead. You can also get flavored yogurts that use Stevia instead of cane sugar for flavoring. When it comes to water, add some fruit slices to the liquid. This is better than drinking fruit juice, which loses its nutritional benefits and fiber through the juicing process.
Avoid processed foods as much as possible. They tend to be full of additives and hidden sugars. They offer no nutritional benefits and lead to many other health problems for you and your baby.
When it comes to snacking, practice mindful eating. Are you really that hungry and is a snack necessary? Often, you just think you’re hungry due to emotional eating, boredom, and thirst. Grab a glass of water before you grab anything to eat and determine if you’re still hungry. If you are, look at the time. It could be time for something to eat. If not, then opt for a healthy snack. A piece of fruit or a handful of nuts and seeds can be much better than sugary snacks.
You may also want to change the way that you eat your meals. During pregnancy, opting for five or six small meals a day may be preferable to three large meals and two snacks. This is because of the room you have available as your baby grows. Getting the smaller meals can help you avoid hunger dips throughout the day, reducing the cravings for sweet foods. You also won’t feel over-full after you’ve finished a meal and your digestive system will be able to handle food more effectively.
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
There’s no need to completely cut out sugars from your diet during pregnancy. In moderation, there’s no evidence to show that there is harm to you or your baby. However, the key is eating in moderation. Excessive sugar consumption is putting your unborn baby at risk. This isn’t just about a risk of pre-term birth. You’re increasing the risk of various health problems in the future, including the risk of diabetes and heart disease when they’re still children!