Is Keto Diet During Pregnancy Safe?

The term eating for two is generally used when a woman is pregnant and enjoys her food. Honestly, it’s kind of a misnomer.

It’s not necessary to eat twice the amount of food that you normally eat in order to have a safe and healthy pregnancy.

The right amount of nutrients is the most important part. The baby will take whatever it needs from you in order to survive.

The body will provide everything in order to support an additional life.

During pregnancy, the doctor will give you an optimal weight gain for you personally. Some women start pregnancy overweight, some underweight, others at an ideal weight.

But during pregnancy, it’s important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet in order to avoid excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, anemia, early labor or low birth weight babies, and to decrease the need for a C-Section.[1]

As a common rule, a normal weight woman should gain from 25 to 25 pounds, overweight only 10 to 20 pounds and underweight women about 35 to 45 pounds.[2]

And these are guidelines, your doctor can be more specific as to what they expect from you as a mother.

The most important part is eating a well-balanced diet and by the third trimester, we are talking only about 300 extra calories per day of nutrient-dense foods.

The food you do ingest should be high in protein, contain omega 3’s, calcium, iron and folic acid.[3]

While you may have cravings for certain foods (I only craved chocolate ice cream, which in reality I actually don’t enjoy), you should still be cognizant of what you are ingesting to ensure that you are getting the optimal amount of nutrients to maintain a healthy pregnancy and a healthy body for yourself.

But what if you are overweight, or are already on a diet plan when you get pregnant? Do you continue with that diet? Do you stop it? Do you start a new one?

That is all something that your doctor can discuss with you but it’s best to not reduce your calories intake in order to lose weight while being pregnant, as the consequences can be detrimental for both yourself and your baby.

However, let’s consider one diet, in particular, the Keto Diet, and see what the ramifications are for continuing that while pregnant.

The Keto Diet

The ketogenic diet has been called many things from the low carb to LCHF (low carb high fat) diet, in which your liver produces ketones that are used by the body for energy.[4]

Through this diet, you are restricting carbs and increasing fats in order to lose weight.

Those who go on this diet are going to lose weight, control their blood sugar, increase their energy, focus better, and help regulate their cholesterol and blood pressure among other benefits.[5]

There is apparently no calorie counting while on this diet which means that you don’t really know how much you are taking in during the course of a day unless you log that information.

Some of the things that you are not supposed to eat while on the Keto diet would be grains, sugar, fruits, and tubers (potatoes).

Some of the foods that are allowed are meat, leafy greens, above ground vegetables, high-fat dairy, nuts and seeds, avocados and berries, and added fats.[6]

Is It Safe?

It depends on how you use it. If you are using it for weight loss, that’s not appropriate while pregnant. Pregnancy is not the time to try and lose weight.

The answer to its safety is still controversial. Research indicates that the keto diet is associated with congenital abnormalities, organ dysfunction, and behavioral changes in later life. [7]

Some dietarians still recommend keto diet during pregnancy by optimizing the number of carbs and fats you take. They’ll calculate your body requirements for energy and give you a personalized plan for the keto diet. [8]

So, you should consult your doctor if you’re planning on starting a keto diet during pregnancy. Just don’t do it on your own.

Bottom Line

There really have been no studies that show whether the keto diet is or is not inherently safe for a pregnant woman and the fetus.[9]

So back to the bottom line; if you do the ketogenic diet while you are pregnant make sure you are eating well, whole foods, and not starving yourself. And also follow your doctor’s advice as well.

As long as the baby is forming and growing correctly, then you should be good to go.

However, it is again, a personal preference and deals with what you and your doctor feel comfortable with.

References

  1. Medline Plus. Eating Right During Pregnancy: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. [link]
  2. See above #1
  3. See above #1
  4. Ruled. What is the Ketogenic Diet? A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide. [link]
  5. See above #5
  6. See above #5
  7. Sussman D., Ellegood J., & Henkelman M. via NCBI. Effects of a Ketogenic Diet During Pregnancy on Embryonic Growth in the Mouse. [link]
  8. Is low carb and keto safe during pregnancy? [link]
  9. See above #7
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