Risks of a High Sugar Diet During Pregnancy

Nutrition education and counseling is a common strategy to improve pregnant women's diets. We'll explain the risks of a high sugar diet in this article.
Risks of a High Sugar Diet During Pregnancy
Florencia Villafañe

Written and verified by the nutritionist Florencia Villafañe.

Last update: 11 June, 2022

A high sugar diet can have health complications for anyone, but especially during pregnancy. Complications can be much greater, and the risk of developing diseases in the future increases.

Pregnancy is a stage that comes with many changes. The body prepares to create a new life, and this includes transformations in the whole body.

What happens during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a vitally important stage. Here, various processes of growth, metabolic adaptation, and preparation for life outside the womb take place.

It’s a situation where the mother has changes in the concentration of glucose and plasma lipids, as well as changes in hormones, like insulin. Likewise, there’s also a certain resistance to this hormone.

In fact, this happens to ensure that glucose gets to the mother’s brain and the fetus. Also, it directs glucose to the mammary gland and reduces its use by the other organs.

A pregnant woman at a doctor's appointment.

Also read: Thyroid Problems During Pregnancy: What’s the Big Deal?

Pregnancy and sugar metabolism

In some women, the carbohydrate metabolism changes throughout pregnancy. This change causes high fasting blood sugar levels, above normal values.

When fasting blood sugar and insulin levels are normal, or even low, after carbohydrate consumption, blood glucose rises above normal values. These changes are more pronounced in the third trimester of pregnancy.

During pregnancy, as we mentioned, the body becomes more resistant to insulin. In this way, sometimes the body needs more of this hormone to metabolize the sugar in food. When you have insufficient or no insulin, glucose builds up in your blood.

If your body doesn’t regulate glucose properly during pregnancy, changes can occur that seriously affect the fetus’s development, in many cases. Also, they can predispose you to diabetes in adulthood.

High sugar diet during pregnancy and diabetes

In addition to what we mentioned above, a mother may follow a high sugar diet during pregnancy, which can change this situation even more. Then, gestational diabetes can happen. This is where diabetes is diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy.

Usually, it’s a transient condition where a pregnant woman can’t produce enough insulin or becomes resistant to it, leading to higher blood sugar levels.

Sugar on a table.

Gestational diabetes

Pregnant women with this disorder have a higher risk of suffering from some disorders such as the following:

  • Hypertensive disorders during pregnancy
  • Diseases associated with diabetes
  • Cesarean births

Also, several studies show that 50% of patients with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the next 10 years.

You might be interested: How to Improve Your Diet if You Suffer from Diabetes

What should you eat during pregnancy?

The first thing to keep in mind is that diet is key to preventing gestational diabetes. According to the World Health Organization, a healthy diet during pregnancy has enough energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

To do this, you need to make sure that you get enough of these foods:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Lean red meat
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
Fresh foods in a salad.

Also, don’t forget that, in the case of diabetes, the treatment consists of daily control of blood sugara healthy diet, and physical exercise. If blood sugar levels are too high, the doctor will prescribe the necessary medications.

Nutrition education and counseling is a widely used strategy to improve the nutritional status of women during pregnancy. Additionally, it helps prevent future complications.

The strategy mainly focuses on the following elements:

  • Improve the quality of the mother’s diet, taking into account the amount of food consumed.
  • Promote adequate weight gain through a sufficient and balanced diet.

It’s important to take the advice of doctors and nutritionists on following a healthy diet that’s low in sugar. Likewise, daily physical activity is essential during pregnancy.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Medina-Pérez EA, Sánchez-Reyes A, Hernández-Peredo AR, Martínez-López MA, Jiménez-Flores CN, Serrano-Ortiz I . Diabetes gestacional. Diagnóstico y tratamiento en el primer nivel de atención. Med. interna Méx. 2017; 33(1):91-98.
  • Efecto de una dieta personalizada en mujeres embarazadas con sobrepeso u obesidad. Rev Chil Nutr 2016;(3):230-238.
  • Vigil-De Gracia P, Olmedo J. Diabetes gestacional: conceptos actuales. Ginecol. obstet. Méx. 2017;85(6):380-390.
  • Who.[Internet] Asesoramiento nutricional durante el embarazo. Actualizado el 5 de abril de 2019.Disponible en: https://www.who.int/elena/titles/nutrition_counselling_pregnancy/es/

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.