Too much sugar can cause problems in pregnancy

There’s a common myth that you need to “eat for two” during pregnancy. The truth is, you don’t need any extra food during the first two trimesters and only around 200 calories more in the third trimester, which is the equivalent of two slices of toast. Making healthy, low-sugar choices could help you avoid some of the risks to you and your baby and we’re here to help you every step of the way.

How much is too much?

During pregnancy, try to stick to the usual maximum daily limit of sugar for adults, this is no more than 7.5 teaspoons of sugar. If you’re pregnant, for your health and that of your baby’s, one of the best things you can do is to reduce the amount of sugar you eat to keep your sugar intake within the recommended guidelines.

What are the risks of too much sugar?

Eating too many sugary foods during pregnancy can lead to significant weight gain and it’s important to know that being overweight or obese could put you and your baby at risk of complications during pregnancy and labour. Eating too many sugary drinks and snacks during pregnancy can also increase your risk of certain health conditions and affect the development of your baby.

Sugar fact: 1 in 5 pregnant women in Sheffield are obese

The risks of being overweight in pregnancy

Being pregnant and overweight puts you at risk of a variety of health problems including:

  • Thrombosis – blood clots in your legs or lungs
  • Gestational diabetes – high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy. Too much glucose in your bloodstream crosses the placenta, which can cause your baby to grow too large.
  • High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
  • Mental health problems including low self-esteem and depression

The risks of being overweight for your baby

Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. If you have a high BMI, your baby is more like to have problems, such as:

  • Neural tube defects – problems with skull and spine development
  • Birth complications
  • High birth weight
  • Being born too early

Calculating your BMI – Adults and Children

A simple way to work out if you are within a healthy weight range is to measure your BMI. This will be calculated at your first antenatal appointment, but you can check it yourself at home.

Use the NHS BMI Calculator to find out your BMI:

  • Healthy weight 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight over 25
  • Obese over 30

If you have a BMI over 25, the best way to protect yourself and your baby is to lose weight before you get pregnant. If this isn’t possible, try not to worry. Most women who are overweight have a straightforward pregnancy and birth and have healthy babies. But, it is still important to be a healthy weight. And we have lots of hints and tips which can help you achieve this.

How to reduce the risks to you and your baby

You should try to maintain a healthy weight and avoid excessive weight gain during pregnancy by eating a healthy balanced diet. Your antenatal appointments are a great opportunity to seek advice on healthy eating and nutrition. Try to reduce the amount of sugary drinks and snacks you consume by making some simple sugar swaps. Regular exercise, such as walking or swimming, will also help you to have a healthy pregnancy. Always talk to your midwife before starting any exercise plan.

The health benefits

Keeping an eye on the amount of sugar you consume can help to reduce your chance of problems, such as gestational diabetes, and help you have a healthy, happy pregnancy.