Many women have to deal with food aversions and cravings throughout their pregnancies. Unfortunately, in some cases, these issues can interfere with the body’s blood sugar levels, decreasing them to levels that compromise daily life. Women should keep their doctors and midwives informed of their diets and energy levels throughout their pregnancies. Low blood sugar usually can be easily diagnosed and treated. Occasionally it can signal a more serious underlying condition.
Low Blood Sugar Defined
A pregnant woman requires approximately 300 extra calories daily in order to support her changing body and the baby growing inside it. When she does not eat enough food, her blood sugar drops—much more quickly than when she is not pregnant. This condition is also called hypoglycemia. A simple blood test can confirm the condition.
A woman’s blood volume increases by nearly 50 percent during the course of her pregnancy. A normal woman’s cardiovascular and nervous systems adjust to these changes with fluctuations in blood pressure, but a hypoglycemic woman’s body does not have enough extra calories to keep up. As a result, dizziness and sometimes even fainting occur.
An August 2005 “Journal of Perinatology” study says that mothers with hypoglycemia during pregnancy have a higher chance of birthing babies that require admission to the neonatal intensive care unit. A July 2009 “Reproductive Health” study reports that hypoglycemic women are more likely to develop preeclampsia during their pregnancies. Preeclampsia is a serious condition that leads to high blood pressure, premature delivery and even fetal death if not closely monitored.
To avoid low blood sugar, pregnant women need to eat. Hypoglycemia.org recommends six small meals throughout the day rather than three large meals hours and hours apart. Whole foods are better than processed foods, and protein should be the focus of each meal. Pregnant women should eat fruit and drink fruit juices only in moderation. Sugar, flour, dried fruits and caffeine should be eliminated from the diet completely.
Seeking Medical Help
According to Babycenter, hypoglycemic symptoms of dizziness or fainting coupled with blurred vision, slurred speech, heart palpitations or numbness could indicate a serious underlying condition. A woman should contact her doctor or midwife immediately.
- “Journal of Perinatology”; Does Maternal Hypoglycemia During Screening Glucose Assessment Identify a Pregnancy At-Risk for Adverse Perinatal Outcome?; JK Feinberg, EF Magann; August 2005
- “Reproductive Health”; Does Hypoglycemia Following A Glucose Challenge Test Identify a High Risk Pregnancy?; SK Pugh, DA Doherty; July 2009
- Babycenter.com: Dizziness and Fainting During Pregnancy