Why Pregnant Women Should Avoid The Keto Diet

The popular keto diet has been taking the nutrition industry by storm. But some experts say the high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet may not be the best choice for those expecting.

The keto diet encourages eating a large amount of fat and meat, and discourages any more than 50 grams of carbs a day. The goal with eating more fat is to get your body into a state of ketosis so it uses fat rather than carbs for energy (via Healthline).

Although this diet has been popular for those trying to drop weight, for pregnant women, the lack of nutrients is detrimental. Fruits and vegetables are largely avoided in the keto diet due to their high carb and natural sugar content, but the vitamins, minerals, and fiber produce contains is very necessary for expecting moms, according to Healthline. Taking a prenatal vitamin may help with any nutrient deficiencies, but it is also important to use food as your main nutrient source.

More risks of the keto diet during pregnancy

The keto diet's use of ketones instead of glucose can also be harmful, as glucose from carbohydrates is the primary energy source for your baby's growth, according to What to Expect. Additional risks include higher levels of saturated fat from the high-protein diet, and the keto diet also encourages sandwich meat as a regular diet staple, which is not ideal for pregnancy (via Healthline).

Human research surrounding pregnancy and the keto diet is limited. However, a study published in the journal, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth showed that when mice followed a keto diet, it had numerous developmental effects on their offspring, including growth delays, organ dysfunction and smaller brains and hearts. The study also found potential behavioral changes once outside the womb.

One of the benefits of the keto diet is the effect it has on lowering diabetes risk in non-pregnant people. But the same doesn't go for women with gestational diabetes. Experts tell What to Expect that there is limited to no evidence showing that the keto diet helps with gestational diabetes. Instead, they recommend lowering daily carb consumption and eating smaller, more frequent meals to keep blood sugar stable, rather than going into ketosis.

More research is needed when it comes to the keto diet and pregnancy

More research is needed to fully explore the keto diet's effects on pregnancy. Experts say the keto diet is not safe for pregnant women, as it typically causes rapid weight loss, which is not recommended during pregnancy unless specifically advised by your doctor (via What to Expect). However, it is recommended that you maintain a healthy weight during your pregnancy to decrease your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and preeclampsia.

While low-carb diets like the keto diet are not recommended for pregnancy at this time, it doesn't mean it should be a carb free-for-all. Moms-to-be can cut back on carbs from junk foods like cookies, chips, and soda, and instead, incorporate fresh foods like fruits, beans, and vegetables. 

If you're pregnant, talk with your doctor or nutritionist about a healthy-eating plan that's right for you and your baby. While keto may work for some people at certain points in their lives, it is not recommended for those who are pregnant.