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

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

That’s also why many women end up with dental issues while pregnant (I can personally attest to that), they will take the calcium they need from the mother regardless of what the mother actually needs.

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

All in all, 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 foods 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), but 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 when you do 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 to try and lose weight while 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 body produces ketones that are used by the liver for[4] energy.[5]

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

Those who go on this diet are generally going to find that they lose weight, control their blood sugar, increase their energy, focus better, and help regulate their cholesterol and blood pressure among other benefits.[6]

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 meats, leafy greens, above ground vegetables, high-fat dairy, nuts and seeds, avocados and berries, and added fats.[7]

While this may sound like an optimal diet, let’s look at if it is good during pregnancy.

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.

If you are doing the keto “diet” or way of eating you’ll want to make sure that you are eating whole foods, avoiding refined grains, added sugars, and processed foods.

Another thing you want to do is ensure that you aren’t doing intermittent fasting.

Again, this is not the time to be fasting or dieting for the sense of losing weight.

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.[8]

NCBI did research however that those who do a ketogenic diet while pregnant may see changes in the organ growth of the fetus. This could result in dysfunction as well as behavioral changes once they are born.[9]

This is one set of research, one set of conclusions and there haven’t been any others. So while this is something that has been noted, it still needs more testing.

As stated this is one set of research and apparently, there are two forms of ketosis, dietary and diabetic. One produces the ketonic effect with low carb and the other through starvation.[10]

For obvious reasons, starvation is not the route to go. This information seems to coincide with the testing from NCBI.

The starvation and ketosis lead to retardation in pregnant rats. There is still so much more research to do.

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. See above #1
  5. Ruled. What is the Ketogenic Diet? A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide. [link]
  6. See above #5
  7. See above #5
  8. Sussman D., Ellegood J., & Henkelman M. via NCBI. Effects of a Ketogenic Diet During Pregnancy on Embryonic Growth in the Mouse. [link]
  9. See above #8
  10. Keto During Pregnancy, Low Carb Pregnancy. [link]
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