Side Effects of Eating Sugar When Pregnant: What They Mean

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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You’ve probably heard it’s best to limit your sugar intake during pregnancy, but you might wonder why. Let’s talk about some side effects of eating sugar during your pregnancy.

Many side effects can occur after eating sugar, including headache, nausea, a racing heart, and fatigue. Fortunately, there are some remedies for these symptoms that can make you more comfortable during your pregnancy. 

Read on for more information on the causes, remedies, and considerations you need to know.

Headache After Eating Sugar During Pregnancy

You may experience a headache, or even a migraine, after eating sugary foods because of excess sugar that results in a sugar crash. 

A headache after eating sugar is most likely to occur when you eat sugary foods instead of a properly balanced meal with fiber, protein, and healthy fats (source: The Migraine Trust). When you eat a meal that is high in levels of sugar, it can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar, called hyperglycemia.

pregnant suffering from headache

Dietary fiber, protein, or fat slows down the digestion and absorption of sugar, preventing a spike in blood sugar levels. However, if the food does not have these nutrients and is mostly sugar and simple carbohydrates, it will contribute to a quick rise in blood sugar. 

After a while, that sugar will be taken into your cells by insulin, and you will experience a sugar crash. A sugar crash can contribute to a headache as well as many other uncomfortable side effects, such as dizziness.

To avoid this crash, consume your sugar cravings in moderation, and be sure to include a good source of dietary fiber, protein, and healthy fat to slow down the absorption of the sugars.

Additionally, avoid skipping meals. Eat consistently and regularly throughout the day. Not eating causes unhealthy fluctuations in your blood sugar, but snacking or having a small meal every few hours helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable and avoid any symptoms such as a headache.

Consistent meals and snacks are especially important for pregnant women as you need increased nutrition to help your baby grow. 

Feeling Sick or Nauseous After Eating Sugar When Pregnant

It is common to feel nauseous or sick after eating sugar during pregnancy. This is a tricky subject because sometimes eating sugar can cause nausea when your blood sugar is too high. Other times, nausea can mean you have low blood sugar levels and need to consume extra sugar. 

During months of pregnancy, it is natural that certain foods, including sugar, can cause nausea or morning sickness, which can occur at any time (source: Cleveland Clinic). 

lemonade in a pitcher with fresh lemons

Thankfully there are some natural ways to reduce nausea while you are pregnant, including sipping ginger ale or lemonade, eating a few soda crackers before getting up, avoiding very flavorful, spicy, or greasy foods, and drinking fluids between meals instead of with your meals (source: American Pregnancy Association). 

Heart Racing or Palpitating After Eating Sugar

Experiencing a racing heart or heart palpitations after eating sugar can be scary, especially during pregnancy. As mentioned above, excessive sugar intake can cause a quick rise and fall in your blood sugar levels, which can also cause this symptom.

Conversely, when your blood sugar is low, it can also contribute to heart palpitations or flutters (source: Harvard Medical School).

Therefore, to avoid low blood sugar, eat small balanced diet meals and snacks frequently and do not skip meals.

If you experience heart palpitations regularly, it is important to bring it up with your physician as it could be a sign of heart disease, though this is unlikely. 

Side view of tired pregnant woman lying on sofa and yawning with her hand to her mouth

Feeling Tired or Exhausted After Eating Sugar During Pregnancy

You may notice that sometimes after consumption of sugar, you suddenly feel tired and exhausted. This side effect is likely related to a sugar crash that leaves you feeling dizzy, shaky, and tired.

Similar to the tips for avoiding a headache after eating sugar, skipping meals and snacks can contribute to feeling tired after eating sugar, due to that pesky sugar crash. Pair your sugary food cravings with fiber, protein, and fat to help prevent fatigue. 

Some examples of meals and snacks that will help keep your blood sugar stable inlude: 

  • Cheese, whole grain crackers, almonds
  • Brown rice, chicken breast, olive oil
  • Low-fat milk or milk alternative, whole grain cereal, a piece of fruit

Hopefully, this information helps you break down why you might experience these common side effects of eating amounts of sugar during pregnancy so you can avoid them in the future.