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Why sugar is worse in pregnancy

Posted by on Dec. 14, 2009 at 9:13 AM
  • 15 Replies

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?

Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers ~ strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.

~Barbara Katz Rothma

When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change. -Mongan

by on Dec. 14, 2009 at 9:13 AM
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by on Dec. 14, 2009 at 11:50 PM

Anyone working to reduce/eliminate sugar in their diet?

I think it is pretty hard if sweets are a part of everyday life.   Cutting down gradually & sticking with it can make it more do-able. 

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doulala, Pregnancy Group Mod

by on Dec. 14, 2009 at 11:57 PM

I have to say honey is my weak spot! Honey and pnut butter and crackers...OH my mouth is watering! That and tons of yogurt and fruit, which I've heard even lowfat yogurt can cause extra weight gain. 

I had started eating lean cuisines to try and monitor my calories better, but HOW are we supposed to maintain our calorie intake when I am SO much hungrier than before? Now I'm suffering from some annoying icky tummy, so I'm eating much more sporadically and once I do find something I can eat I eat lots of it. The hunger is still there, I just can't find anything that I either want to eat, or that doesn't make me feel icky after I've eaten. ARG I'm ready for this to be done, and I'm just beginning, LOL!  

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by on Dec. 14, 2009 at 11:58 PM

I have cut refined sugars out of my diet and feel great. The only sugar I get is from fruit, veggies, and other natural sources. It was difficult as first-- I love love LOVE chocolate-- but I had to do what was best for my health and the health of my baby. My total weight gain for this pregnancy is 7 lbs (after losing 4 lbs these past 6 weeks). 

Quoting doulala:

Anyone working to reduce/eliminate sugar in their diet?

I think it is pretty hard if sweets are a part of everyday life.   Cutting down gradually & sticking with it can make it more do-able. 

by on Dec. 15, 2009 at 12:55 AM

I dont know about this one.. I cut alot of sugar and though well ill get it from fruit, BUT i then started getting dissy, and ended up having a blackout, and the ER doctor told me its cause i wasnt getting the sugar I needed, told me during pregnantcy its important to not change what you eat that fast cause your body wont be able to keep up..

by on Dec. 15, 2009 at 9:12 AM

I was told recently that I have gestational diabetes.  I'm 33 weeks 3 days, and the doc put my on glyburide.  I haven't really seen too much improvement even though I am not eating sugary foods.  I haven't had juice or regular pop in three weeks, might sneak a bite of chocolate here and there, but NEVER more than a bite.  Hubby eats the rest for me, lol.  I'm really concerned that the doc may induce me early if my daughter is too big.  What are the risks of early induction?  I feel huge, but people are telling me I'm not, so I have no idea at this point.

Gini Winget

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by on Dec. 15, 2009 at 10:18 AM

Doulala I love your posts! This is just what I needed to read.. I needed a little reminder. I have really been eating like crap this pregnancy and I know better then that :\ I only have 6 weeks left but I really do need to wisen up with the foods I'm choosing. Eating like crap makes you feel like crap.. pregnant or not lol.

by on Dec. 15, 2009 at 10:31 AM

Quoting ginipassionlady:

I was told recently that I have gestational diabetes. 

I'm really concerned that the doc may induce me early if my daughter is too big.  What are the risks of early induction?  I feel huge, but people are telling me I'm not, so I have no idea at this point.

It is normal to feel huge when we are pregnant...        ;-)

IMO~  it is very important to learn all you can so that when/IF the time comes, you can make informed decisions.   Induction is about weighing risks.  You consider which is safer, baby on the inside or baby on the outside, and of course the method you go through to get baby out if inducing.

A "big" baby is a debatable subject.    From what I am learning, it depends on the care provider we hire for maternity care.    If we hire a surgeon/high-risk provider (OB) we are more likely to be treated like we're ill.   When we hire a normal birth specialist (midwife), our risks for interventions-induction-cesarean decrease.  These 2 kinds of providers have a different model of care they use, that makes a big difference in the outcome of care.     (Like the common differences of 33% cesarean rates vs 5 % cesarean rates.)

I have a lot of info about the drugs & their impacts saved.   I can share that later, if you would like.

I can share some info that was inspiring:

What about Inducing for suspected Big Baby?

The probably more common approach is for OBs to suggest moms be induced because their babies are getting too big.  Many moms at the end of their pregnancy are feeling uncomfortable and are looking for a way to get this baby out, the sooner the better.  They are not told the risks of induction, not told their Bishops Score, nor told they are possibly setting themselves up for a cesarean. 

Let us also remember that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists do not recommend induction for a big baby, let alone cesarean. Big babies are also known as macrosomia. They have recently found that in addition to it being really difficult to tell the big babies from the regular sized babies via ultrasound, that when you induce a woman who is suspected to have a large baby, she is more likely to have a cesarean section.  So it is better to just let nature take its course and all will be well.  Especially if the mom is able to move around and push in more upright positions. 

Definition of a Big Baby

Lets think of a few things....  what is considered a BIG baby?  I had 2 babies around 9 pounds, one exactly 9 pounds and 1 a bit bigger.  Everyone seemed very impressed that I had pushed these HUGE babies out of me.   Well, did they forget that is exactly what my body is supposed to do?  My vagina is meant to stretch, my pelvis is meant to open, my body will grow the perfect size baby for me. 

Statistically and medically a 9 pound baby is in the average range. 

"Babies weighing more than 9 pounds and 15 ounces (4,500 grams) are considered much larger than average. (Average newborn weight is 7 pounds and 8 ounces.) It's very difficult to determine whether a baby is truly macrosomic (literally "of large body") while she's still in the womb - only a post-birth weigh-in confirms it."

ACOG recommends intervention only if baby is over 5000 grams which is 11 pounds.  Keep in mind they admit there is NO WAY to know how much a baby will weigh until after the baby is born.  So if they think by ultrasound a baby will be 11 pounds... the baby could actually only be 9 pounds, well within normal. 

Mental Games

What about the simple fact that just saying your baby is getting to big, what does that do to a moms thought process?  We are suggestible, especially at times when a person who has "authority" says something.  How many moms are psyched out of birthing their babies the way their body knows how to, but that seed of doubt is planted by their care provider. 

You can counteract this by saying affirmations to yourself. 

My body grows the perfect size baby for ME!

Baby Fat smushes... allowing my baby to easily be born.

My body can easily birth this baby. 

Let us remember our bodies will not grow what it can not birth.  Which makes me think of a favorite article I read called, Pelvises I have known and loved. 

I think hypnosis can help to reprogram your mind and trust in your body.  Also the Bubble of Peace you get in Hypnobabies can help bounce negative ideas away from you too.  :)

But the ultrasound/OB said....

But the ultrasound says ______ fill in the blank.  "A study comparing fetal weight estimates of clinicians, multiparous patients and ultrasonography found that ultrasound was the least accurate of the three methods.13 Limitations in the sensitivity and specificity of ultrasound have been observed in other studies.15 Despite these limitations, clinicians continue to incorrectly believe that ultrasound is an accurate way of predicting macrosomia.17 "  link from

You decide what YOU want.  Do your research and follow your gut.  Do you trust your body to grow the right size baby for you?  I know when Carson was born (my first VBAC 9lbs 4oz) my OB said, "If I had known he was that big I wouldn't have let you try for a VBAC."   My response was, "Thank goodness you didn't know, because I obviously could do it."    Would I have been strong enough to fight for my VBAC if she had doubted in me?  I would like to think yes... I know for sure when I was getting huge with Bryson, I knew there would be nothing stopping me from delivering vaginally as long as I was ok and baby ok... size was irrelevant!

That really is a shame, many OBs do see birth as a medical problem instead of a natural event.  They are also used to most of their moms having epidurals, which can make pushing any size baby out a bit more challenging at times. 

Some good questions to ask are.... "Is Mom OK?  Is Baby OK?"  If the answer to those are yes, then it isn't medically necessary. 


written by, Sheridan Ripley - Proud VBAC mom, Lactivist, Hypnobabies Instructor, Positive Birth Story Collector, Doula and mom of 3 busy boys.  FROM:   Big Baby Balogna

Her OC Hypnobabies Website is

Positive Birth Stories and birth video 

The knowledge of how to give birth without outside intervention lies deep within each woman. Successful childbirth depends on an acceptance of the process. ~Suzanne Arms

Birth is not an emergency. It is simply an emergence.” - Jeannine Parvati Baker

by on Dec. 15, 2009 at 10:32 AM

GESTATIONAL DIABETES Gail Hart (Gist of Midwifery)


  • A certain portion of people are unaware they have diabetes Mellitus until their symptoms become severe enough to send them to the doctor or hospital.

  • Some of these unknown diabetics are women who will become pregnant, and their diabetes will first be discovered during routine prenatal care.

  • A certain portion of women with very mild diabetes – often unknown diabetics – will demonstrate symptoms of diabetes only under the stress of pregnancy.

  • Diabetes can be a dangerous disease with serious risks for the baby and for the pregnant woman.


Diabetes mellitus

  • Diagnosed by symptoms and clinical signs, confirmed by lab results


Gestational diabetes”

  • Diagnosed solely by lab values (elevated screens or GTT)

  • No symptoms or signs


Risks of Diabetes mellitus in pregnancy

  • fetal malformations (possibly caused by medications). Most common is poorly formed hips.

  • A baby who is under-mature for his gestational age (still “premie” at 37 weeks, lungs not mature)

  • Maternal high blood pressure, PIH, pre-eclampsia more common, more severe

  • Stillbirth more common

  • Very large baby more common (risks of birth trauma)

  • Unexplained late term stillbirth risk increased if diabetes poorly controlled

  • Risk of hypoglycemic baby after birth (cure is to feed baby!)

  • Diabetes mellitus symptoms, signs, and blood sugars all increased in pregnancy.

  • Increased symptoms require increased insulin


Risks of “Gestational Diabetes”

  • No risks to mother or baby

  • SOLE risk is of having a larger than average baby (above 9 pounds)



Women metabolize sugar differently when they are pregnant. The swings between high and low are larger (it’s one cause of morning sickness). The normal blood sugar levels are slightly elevated from non-pregnant. This makes it harder to distinguish between normal elevation and mild diabetes.

Diabetic women frequently spill glucose, but occasional glycosuria is common in pregnancy among non-diabetic women. Daily testing shows that most women will spill sugar a few times during pregnancy (generally after a high sugar meal).


Diabetes Mellitus can elevate maternal and fetal risks in pregnancy. Every effort should be made to discover the “hidden diabetic” or the “borderline diabetic” who may develop the condition while pregnant. Testing methods have recently been devised to detect hidden diabetics. These tests rely on large doses of glucose to force a “stress situation” and expose the hidden diabetic. The tests are controversial because it is does not mimic a normal situation, and high numbers of women will fail the test, even though they do not have diabetes. Most of the women who fail the test, will pass it on another day (test is not reproducible).a better test to detect Diabetes Mellitus is the A1c. The A1c will be normal in many women who fail the Glucose Tolerance Test.



Even though normal non-diabetic women’s blood sugar NORMALY runs higher, the levels used to “discover” diabetes in pregnancy are actually set LOWER than when not pregnant! (the levels seem to be rather arbitrary. I can find no data to support lower ranges in pregnancy; the levels are based on theory)


The test recommended by the ADA to discover diabetes in non-pregnant people is the 75 gram two hour screen. Normal values are at:

fasting <115

1 hour < 200

2 hours < 140.


Often, pregnant women are arbitrarily given the 50gm 3 hour challenge, with varying “normal” results listed by different sources (results seem to be based purely on opinion)


NDDG scale

Fasting <105

1 hour < 190

2 hours < 165

3 hours < 145


or another one: (Carpenter and Coustan)

fasting < 95

1 hour < 180

2 hours < 155

3 hours < 140.


Each of these scales is equally acceptable. The decision to call a woman “gestational diabetic” rests upon which chart the careprovider prefers.

Queston without answer: Is this logical? Why should pregnant women be assigned normal values LOWER than the levels which would trigger a diagnosis when they are not pregnant? A “logical” approach would be to assign levels a bit higher – or even a number unchanged from the non-pregnancy “normal values”.


The American Diabetes Association recommends that every pregnant woman be screened with a one hour 50 gram test (values taken at fasting and at one hour).

This test is similar to a simple post-prandial screen (values taken one hour after a meal).

A value over 140 requires a follow-up 3-hour GTT. However, because blood sugars run higher in pregnancy – even in non-diabetic women -- about 15% of women will “fail” the 50 GM screen and become candidates for the 3-hour GTT.

The timing of the test is also important also. The most accurate time for screening is between 24 to 28 weeks – although many people do the tests without respect to gestational age.




According to ACOG, women who fit all the low risk categories do not “need” to be screened:

  • under 25 years of age,

  • not “morbidly obese”

  • no family history

  • not a high risk ethnic group

A competing view is that EVERY woman should be screened – regardless of risk status – because of the theoretical chance of discovering a case of hidden diabetes.


Gestational diabetes in and of itself – does not actually exist as a “disease process”

Distinction between Diabetes Mellitus and “Gestational Diabetes”

  • Gestational Diabetes” is without symptoms, signs or effects on baby

  • Fasting glucose and post-prandials normal or only slightly elevated

  • A1c is not elevated

  • No – or rare – gylcosuria

  • No ketosis


A woman with diabetes mellitus – regardless of when it is first discovered – has blood values far in excess of those used to diagnose “gestational diabetes”. She will usually have a history of insulin-dependent diabetes among family members, and show SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS of diabetes:

  • excessive weight loss or weight gain

  • extreme thirst

  • poly-uria (increased frequency, and larger amounts of. urine)

  • glycosuruia. —sugar in the urine

  • ketonuria – ketones in the urine

  • Possibly cardiovascular symptoms – leading to high blood pressure

  • Poor healing of cuts and scrapes

  • Frequent infections, including vaginal yeast infections


In pregnancy:


  • the fundal heights will usually be large-for-dates

  • the baby will be large-for-dates;

  • excessive amniotic fluid (hydramnios) is common


The rate of large babies is statistically the same even when a woman follows a “gestational diabetes diet” . Studies of women who followed a diabetic diet and also took insulin, show an average reduction in fetal size of about a quarter of a pound –not obstetrically significant.


. Most babies can be born vaginally – even very large babies.

Avoid induction.i

Avoid induction

A prospective study of 262 women with macrosomic babies as predicted by sonography (over 90th percentile). Half (115) had an elective induction with macrosomia as the only indication. induced for macrosomia. With elective induction, the cesarean rate was 57%, significantly higher than the 31% rate with spontaneous labor (P < .01). The induced group also had a significantly higher EFW and birth weight. When logistic regression was used to control for birth weight, parity, and care provider, elective induction was still associated with a higher risk of cesarean delivery than was spontaneous labor (adjusted odds ratio 2.7, 95% confidence interval 1.2-5.9; P < .02) Obstet Gynecol 1993 Apr;81(4):492-6 Elective induction versus spontaneous labor after sonographic diagnosis of fetal macrosomia. Combs CA, Singh NB, Khoury JC.


Induction of labor for “impending macrosmia” raises the cesarean rate, without improving outcomes.ii


The antenatal prediction of fetal macrosomia is associated with a marked increase in cesarean deliveries without a significant reduction in the incidence of shoulder dystocia or fetal injury. Ultrasonography and labor induction for patients at risk for fetal macrosomia should be discouraged”

Am J Obstet Gynecol 1995 Oct;173(4):1215-9 Fetal macrosomia: does antenatal prediction affect delivery route and birth outcome? Weeks JW, Pitman T, Spinnato JA 2nd.

Debate over screening for gestational diabetes

From: (UPI / Stories of modern science...from UPI., Bill Clough (UPI))
Organization: Copyright 1997 by United Press International ** via ClariNet **
Date: Thu, 27 Nov 1997 0:51:14 PST

BOSTON, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Toronto researchers say too many mothers-to- be are getting unnecessary blood tests for pregnancy related diabetes.

The scientists say they have developed a simple screening technique to determine who is really at risk. They estimate the technique could cut the number of such tests by one third, eliminating hundreds of thousands of tests a year.

The new screening method, an evaluation based on a woman's height, weight, age and race, would also limit false positive readings, which lead to more complicated, time consuming tests, the scientists say.

In a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, investigators from the University of Toronto used the method to screen more than 3,000 pregnant women, who were also given the standard blood test for diabetes. They found that nearly 35 percent did not need the blood tests.

Dr. C. David Naylor says the new method is "dead simple," and "picks up just as many cases as universal screening."

Naylor, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, also says the study found that false positives dropped about 5 percent with the new screening method.

Pregnant women are usually screened for gestational diabetes with a simple blood test, which costs around five dollars and takes an hour.

But if a women gets a false positive from the first test, she is then given an oral glucose tolerance test.

Naylor says this involves a two-day high-carbohydrate diet, fasting and giving blood four times during three hours in a blood-letting station. The woman also must drink large, sometimes nauseating, amounts of sugar water.

Naylor says, "This falls under the heading of serious nuisance for women who are already busy enough."

In a NEJM editorial, Dr. Michael F. Greene of Massachusetts General Hospital says that the study supports the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Diabetes Association, which call for selective screening.

But he says, "busy obstetricians are unlikely to wend their way" through a complex diagnostic screen for each pregnant woman.

(Written Mara Bovsun in New York)


Henci Goer GD article

We've put birth in the same category with illness and disease and it's never belonged there. Birth is naturally safe, but we've allowed it to be taken over by the medical community.

~Carla Hartley, founder of Trust Birth and the Ancient Art Midwifery Institute


Treating normal labors as though they were complicated can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. ~Rooks


If you lay down, the baby will never come out! ~ Native American saying

by on Dec. 15, 2009 at 10:35 AM

I eat sugar and give in to my cravings but they have been pretty mild, every once in a while I will have a major craving for chocolate or sugary snacks that I just have to have, but most of the time I have been eating fruits like oranges and apples, and a few bananas, I even cut up a pineapple the other day and ate some of that, it killed the sweet craving I had

pregnancy calendar
by on Dec. 15, 2009 at 10:37 AM
Quoting miss_nevin:

I dont know about this one.. I cut alot of sugar and though well ill get it from fruit, BUT i then started getting dissy, and ended up having a blackout, and the ER doctor told me its cause i wasnt getting the sugar I needed, told me during pregnantcy its important to not change what you eat that fast cause your body wont be able to keep up..

Your body won't mind if you choose natural sources.   ;-)

Instead of Peanut M & Ms, for example, you can choose toast with peanut butter & applesauce on top.

Blood sugar doesn't mean processed refined, granulated sugar.    The foods we eat give us energy, the carbohydrates can come from bananas and whole weat crackers, brown rice, etc.

How DARE Mother Nature question SCIENCE!       ~Mike Tymeson

The impossible is often the untried.       ~Jim Goodwin

Women's bodies have their own wisdom, and a system of birth refined over 100,000 generations is not so easily overpowered.      ~Sarah Buckley

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