The Effects of Sugar During Pregnancy on Your Baby, Your Body and Your Mouth

Pregnant Woman Eating Chocolate Ice Cream

Ever since you got pregnant, you've probably been dealing with some crazy cravings. Perhaps you find yourself reaching for a jar of peanut butter and some pickles. Or, maybe you've noticed that you're craving candy and sweet treats like never before.

Should you worry that eating sugar during pregnancy will have a lasting effect on your health or the health of your child? Just as eating an excessive amount of sugar affects your overall health when you're not pregnant, it can have an effect on your health and your baby's health during pregnancy.

Does Sugar Consumption Affect Developing Babies?

When you're pregnant, anything you eat is also consumed by your developing baby. There is some concern that eating a lot of sugar during pregnancy can have an effect on a child's cognition later in life. One study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found an association between mothers drinking certain sweetened beverages (including diet sodas) during pregnancy and reduced cognitive skills in children. While this study doesn't prove having a sugary treat here and there will severely and negatively impact your child's health, it suggests that it's important to think consciously about what you eat when you're pregnant.

Effects of Sugar on Pregnant Women

Consuming a lot of sugary or sweetened foods during pregnancy may also have an effect on your physical health. About 7 in every 100 pregnant women in the U.S. develop a condition known as gestational diabetes, as the National Institutes of Health notes. Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and often goes away after delivery. However, it can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on, as well as increase your child's risk. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, reducing the number of sweet foods you eat, including fruits, and limiting starchy foods can help you keep your blood sugar levels under control, as UCSF Health points out.

How Sugar During Pregnancy Impacts Your Dental Health

Even when you aren't pregnant, sugar can affect the health of your teeth, leading to decay and cavities. During pregnancy, you might have a slightly higher risk of developing tooth decay, particularly if your diet is high in carbohydrates or if you're dealing with morning sickness, as the American Dental Association (ADA) notes.

One way to protect your teeth and overall health while pregnant is to stick to a regular oral care routine. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss every day.

Some women may be concerned about seeing their dentist for a checkup and teeth cleaning during pregnancy — but they don't have to be. An article published in The Journal of the American Dental Association states that both the ADA and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists believe that oral healthcare during pregnancy is safe and that delaying any treatment or preventative care isn't a good idea. The next time you're at the dentist, just let them know you're pregnant, and they'll take things from there.

Tips for Healthy Eating While Pregnant

While cutting back on sugar while pregnant is a healthy choice for you and your baby, those cravings can be really intense. When you need a bite to eat, the ADA recommends choosing low-sugar snacks, such as vegetables, cheese and unsweetened yogurt. Reading food labels can also help you determine if a snack is high in sugar.

The occasional chocolate bar or cookie isn't likely to hurt you or your child, but if you're concerned that your pregnancy diet has too much sugar in it, your OB-GYN can help. At your next prenatal visit, ask them for guidance and advice on putting together a healthy, low-sugar diet plan.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions During PREGNANCY

To help minimize any risks during pregnancy, here is some general advice and some common conditions to be on the lookout for:

  1. Gum disease – during pregnancy, teeth and gums need special attention. Regular tooth brushing twice daily, flossing once daily, eating a balanced diet and visiting the dentist regularly will help reduce dental problems that accompany pregnancy.

  2. Enamel erosion – for some women, morning sickness is a major symptom of pregnancy. Along with the nausea comes additional acid that, if left in your mouth, can erode your teeth. Be sure to rinse your mouth out with water or with a fluoride mouthwash to keep the acid level under control.

  3. Dry mouth – pregnancy dry mouth can put women at a greater risk for problems such as tooth decay and infections. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and chew sugarless gum to enhance production of saliva.