Keto and Pregnancy: Is it Safe?

With a new year comes a host of popular fads, diets and programs promising “your best self” and “ways to get in shape.” And while there’s no harm in an expecting mother staying in shape throughout her pregnancy, the question is whether a restrictive diet is even safe? One of the more talked-about diets lately is Keto. But what about Keto and pregnancy? Is it safe for mother and baby? While there are expert opinions that land on either side of the argument, we’ve outlined reasons to consider it or to stay clear. Here’s the truth about Keto and pregnancy, and whether it may work for you.   

What is the Keto diet?

Right now, Keto is making waves and dominating news headlines for its focus on high-fat, low-carb consumption and the inevitable results. You can indulge in fish, meat, eggs and dairy. Telling an expecting mom she can consume all the bacon and guacamole she wants is a pregnancy cravings dream come true. But the caveat is that Keto also omits certain foods that offer nutrients and fuel to pregnant mothers, like most fruits. Charles Seltzer, a nutritionist based in Philadelphia says, “Ketogenic diets steer you away from really nutrient dense foods like like fruit, which are packed with vitamins and minerals.” Plus, people following Keto stay away from most carbs, which is the overall point of the diet. However, Seltzer said it diminishes a lot of a person’s energy because “the brain’s and muscles’ preferred form of fuel is carbohydrates.” This can lead to grogginess and even a lack of motivation to be active.

Is it safe during pregnancy?

So the question is whether Keto is safe for women to do during pregnancy. The short answer is that no one knows for sure because there isn’t a ton of scientific data to confirm one way or the other. In general, most doctors and nutritionists can agree that pregnancy is not a time for a woman to be focused on losing weight. Seltzer reiterates that “nourishing your baby is the most important thing to focus on when you are pregnant,” and that vitamin and mineral-packed fruits are “crucial for the development of a baby.” And given ketosis isn’t a body state that is considered “normal” doctors don’t know for certain how it can affect a developing fetus. If a circumstance requires a mom to lose weight to have a healthy delivery, she really needs to be under the close supervision of her medical staff.   

Why some experts encourage it

On the flipside, ketogenic experts believe it lays a great framework for a developing baby. It’s a diet of real food that in no way is harmful for people to consume, especially babies. Ketogenic expert and author, Maria Emmerich, says that a fetus is naturally in a frequent state of ketosis and that the diet is essential for creating fatty structures like brain and nerve cells. And another expert points to gestational diabetes as proof that low-carb or carbohydrate intolerant diets are perfectly healthy for pregnant women. And that it may come down to how people are phrasing the components to Keto. One doctor may hear “low carb” during pregnancy and advise against it. But if you say you plan to eat a diet based on fresh vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, superfoods and a little fruit, another one would tell you to stay the course.

The verdict

As with most things, it may come down to a personal preference and where you’re at with your overall health and how to address that during pregnancy. If Keto means cutting down on processed foods, that’s never a bad thing. And adding in more nutrient-dense vegetables is another good move. Overall, the main goal is to eat healthy in general during pregnancy. Maybe save going Keto for after you’ve had the baby (breastfeeding may be another time to avoid Keto). It goes without saying that all decisions related to food, nutrition and general health should be made with the supervision of your doctor.

“State law allows any person to provide nutritional advice or give advice concerning proper nutrition.  This is the giving of advice as to the role of food and food ingredients, including dietary supplements. This state law does NOT confer authority to practice medicine or to undertake the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, or cure of any disease, pain, deformity, injury, or physical or mental condition.  It specifically does not authorize any person other than one who is a licensed health practitioner to state that any product might cure any disease, disorder, or condition.”

Join the other 1,000,000+ expecting mamas who love Bump Boxes.