Is keto diet safe during pregnancy?

In today’s world, there’s a growing emphasis on health. When we think about this, terms like exercise, diet, and physical activities such as Zumba and Yoga immediately come to mind. Speaking of diets, one that’s garnering attention is the ketogenic diet, commonly known as the keto diet. However, because keto diets are high in fat and low in carbohydrates, it’s important for pregnant women to proceed with caution before considering this diet. It’s advisable for them to consult with a doctor before making any dietary changes.

Is keto diet safe during pregnancy?
Is keto diet safe during pregnancy?

Understanding the Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet, often referred to as the keto diet, is a popular choice for both gaining strength and losing weight. While its principles are straightforward, adhering to it can be challenging. According to the keto diet, an individual should aim to consume:

  • 75% of their daily calories from fat
  • 15% from proteins
  • 10% from carbohydrates

This breakdown equates to approximately:

  • 165g of fat
  • 75g of protein
  • 40g of carbohydrates

The ketogenic diet has been associated with reducing the risk of diabetes and obesity, all without experiencing frequent hunger pangs.

Key components of the keto diet include:

  • Healthy oils like olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil
  • Avocados
  • Heavy cream
  • Butter
  • Cream cheese
  • Various types of cheese
  • Non-starchy vegetables such as zucchini, asparagus, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, and bell peppers
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Lean meats like chicken, beef, pork, and lamb
  • Eggs
  • Fish, especially salmon and sardines
  • Unsweetened coconut
  • Nuts like almonds and macadamias
  • Weight-reducing seeds like chia seeds, flaxseed, and sunflower seeds

While these foods are staples of the diet, it’s crucial to develop a tailored keto pregnancy diet plan that prioritizes the health of the expecting mother. Without proper consideration, following a keto diet during pregnancy could potentially lead to ketosis, posing risks to both the mother and the baby.

Safety Considerations of Keto During Pregnancy

Answering the question about the safety of following a keto diet while pregnant is straightforward: it’s not advisable. The keto diet poses numerous unanswered questions, with ongoing research yet to provide conclusive answers. Furthermore, any weight lost during limited adherence to the keto diet tends to be quickly regained due to increased fat intake, making it unsuitable for individuals with chronic conditions—pregnant women included.

One primary concern regarding the keto diet’s suitability during pregnancy is its nutritional composition. Pregnancy demands an array of essential nutrients to support both maternal health and fetal development. Vital nutrients such as calcium, iron, iodine, choline, vitamins A, D, B6, B12, and folic acid are crucial. Additionally, a minimum intake of 300 extra calories is necessary to sustain fetal growth.

Weight gain is a natural part of pregnancy, typically managed through a balanced diet consisting of wholesome foods, fruits, vegetables, and prescribed medications. If the keto diet leads to weight gain, it could exacerbate issues during childbirth, potentially complicating the process.

Furthermore, pregnant women commonly experience health conditions like hypertension and gestational diabetes. Physicians often recommend low-saturated fat diets to manage these conditions effectively. In contrast, the keto diet is rich in saturated fats, posing a risk factor for pregnant women with such health concerns. These considerations collectively highlight the inadvisability of pregnant women adopting the keto diet.

Potential Benefits of the Keto Diet During Pregnancy

Though still in early stages of research, the keto diet has shown several potential benefits, contributing to its rapid popularity. Its innovative approach has captured people’s interest due to its comprehensible nature and promising outcomes. Some of its advantages include:

Seizure Management:

The keto diet has demonstrated efficacy in managing seizures, providing relief for sufferers over prolonged periods.

Weight Management:

By inducing metabolic changes, the keto diet promotes fat burning and insulin regulation, leading to sustainable weight loss. Unlike calorie-based weight reduction methods, it focuses on nutrient-rich fat oxidation.

Management of Type 2 Diabetes:

With its low carbohydrate intake, the keto diet helps stabilize glucose levels, offering a promising approach to managing type 2 diabetes.

Anti-Cancer Potential:

Through a mechanism of starvation, the keto diet has shown potential in inhibiting tumor cell growth and mitigating cancer risks.

Enhanced Fertility:

By reducing inflammation, the keto diet may enhance fertility, particularly benefiting women with conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Reduction of Cravings:

The high-fat composition of the keto diet can reduce cravings for certain foods like pickles and ice cream, a potential boon for pregnant women seeking to manage their dietary preferences.

Drawbacks of the Keto Diet for Pregnant Women

Despite its potential benefits, comprehensive research on the keto diet is still underway. This diet relies on various techniques and plans promising rapid weight loss and slimming within a short period. However, the lack of solid logic and clarity behind many of these plans poses several drawbacks, particularly for pregnant women considering its adoption.

Risk of Nutritional Deficiencies:

The composition of the keto diet may not adequately fulfill the nutritional needs of pregnant women. Essential nutrients like calcium and folate, crucial for maternal and fetal health, are often lacking in keto diet plans.

Exacerbation of Weight Issues:

The keto diet may contribute to weight gain during pregnancy, potentially exacerbating existing weight concerns. Pregnant women on keto diets may also restrict their food intake due to weight-related anxieties.

Potential for Constipation:

One common drawback of the keto diet is its tendency to cause constipation, a discomforting issue for many individuals.

Additionally, pregnant women may experience various side effects associated with the keto diet, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Keto flu
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Bad breath
  • Muscle cramps
  • Stomach pain
  • Acidity
  • Constipation
  • Discomfort in the stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • High cholesterol levels

Moreover, many individuals on the keto diet experience what is known as “keto flu,” a temporary condition resulting from abrupt dietary changes. While these symptoms typically resolve themselves within a few days or weeks, persistent or severe cases should prompt consultation with a healthcare professional.

Safety of the Keto Diet for Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a common condition among pregnant women, typically appearing during pregnancy and often resolving after childbirth. However, it leaves a lasting impact on both the mother and the baby, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes at a young age. While adopting a low-carb diet may help prevent gestational diabetes, it is not advisable for pregnant women. Low-carb diets can induce ketosis, requiring medical intervention and potentially impacting the health of the baby.

The ketogenic diet, or keto diet, is characterized by high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate intake. Unlike other diets, it aims to prompt the body to burn fat for fuel through a process known as ketosis. However, despite its potential benefits, the keto diet is associated with side effects, and its nutritional composition may not provide adequate nourishment for pregnant women. Therefore, recommending the keto diet to expecting mothers is not considered safe for their well-being and that of their unborn children.


Is it OK to do keto while pregnant?

While some women may choose to continue a ketogenic (keto) diet during pregnancy, it’s essential to ensure proper nutrient intake for both the mother and the developing fetus. Carbohydrates are a primary energy source, and certain vitamins and minerals abundant in carbohydrate-rich foods are vital during pregnancy. Therefore, it’s typically recommended to prioritize a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods.

Is it safe to get pregnant on keto?

There isn’t enough research to definitively say whether being on a ketogenic diet at the time of conception poses any risks to pregnancy. However, as mentioned earlier, it’s crucial to ensure proper nutrition for both mother and baby during pregnancy. If you’re considering getting pregnant or are already pregnant, discussing your dietary choices with a healthcare provider is essential.

How does ketosis affect the fetus?

Ketosis, a metabolic state where the body uses fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates, can potentially affect fetal development if not managed correctly. While some studies suggest that ketones may have adverse effects on fetal brain development, more research is needed to fully understand the implications. Again, consulting with a healthcare provider is crucial if you’re considering or currently following a ketogenic diet during pregnancy.

Is it OK to avoid carbs during pregnancy?

While it’s not inherently harmful to limit carbohydrate intake during pregnancy, completely avoiding carbs may not be advisable due to the essential nutrients they provide. Carbohydrates are a significant source of energy and provide important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Instead of avoiding carbs altogether, it’s generally recommended to focus on consuming complex carbohydrates from sources like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, which provide sustained energy and essential nutrients.


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