Can You Eat a Ketogenic Diet While Pregnant

Ketosis is a state of metabolism that is completely safe for most adults.

However, if you’re pregnant you may be wondering if ketosis and the keto diet can fit into this phase of your life.

In particular, you’re probably wondering if it’s safe for you and your baby.


Interestingly enough, because most pregnant women experience frequent vomiting during the first 3 months of pregnancy… they tend to end up in ketosis anyways, regardless of their diet.

In addition, the nausea, lack of appetite and food aversions can make many women eat very little during the first months of pregnancy.

The first thing to understand is that ketosis is not an abnormal state for the body.

In fact, we all produce a small amount of ketones during the night.

But when following a keto diet, your body produces more of it.

But the case is different when there is a new life growing inside you.

In order to push your body into ketosis you need to follow a very low carb diet. Limiting your carbs to 20-30 grams per day jumpstarts your body into producing ketones.

Ketones are the end products of fatty acid metabolism – when the body breaks down fats for fuel.

In a non-pregnant state, the body will normally adapt and start using ketones for brain activity and for energy. And the ketones are expelled through the urine.

During pregnancy though, ketones can cross the placenta boundary.

How ketones affect your baby

In spite of the potentially positive effect of ketosis, it has long been known that maternal ketosis (due to hunger or gestational diabetes) is associated with less favourable fetal outcomes.

A study concluded that a keto diet during pregnancy may lead to changes in the growth of fetal organs.

These changes may be linked with organ dysfunction as well as possible changes in behaviour.

Some studies have shown that too much ketones during pregnancy may affect the baby’s brain cells.

Other effects include possibly leading to lower IQ and future learning challenges.

The baby’s genes also identifies ketones as a sign that they’re being born in an environment where there’s food scarcity.

In response, your baby’s DNA changes to adapt to a food scarce environment increasing fat storage. This suggests a higher risk of obesity in life.

Blood sugar levels and your baby

Another issue with a low carb diet like keto is that your blood sugar levels tend to be lower than on a normal diet.

Under normal circumstances that would be a good thing…

But low blood sugar levels puts puts your developing baby at risk of insufficient glucose transfer.

Glucose is the main source of energy for the placenta and your baby while in the womb so you can see how this can lead to problems.


Nutrient deficiency

Another valid worry with a ketogenic diet during pregnancy is the risk of micronutrient deficiency.

If you are limiting calories during the first 6 months of pregnancy, it isn’t really to going to affect you since the fetus is not gaining any substantial amount of weight.

But entering into the last trimester, the fetus starts to put on weight rapidly. In fact, for most babies their weight doubles in just the first month of the last trimester and they continue to gain around a half a pound a week.

At this point, you need to increase your caloric intake to 300 to 500+ per day to meet the demands of your growing child.

The danger in restricting calorie intake is that you are also restricting intake of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients.

During this time, the nervous system, the brain and other vital organs are developing rapidly.

You should not restrict your intake of micronutrients due to calorie restriction.

So, what should a pregnant woman do?

You can still follow a low carb, high fat diet during pregnancy.

The most ideal would the moderate carb approach, with carb levels between 75 and 150 grams per day.

Lily Nichols, author of Real Food for Gestational Diabetes says that eating lower carb during pregnancy seems safe.

This is as long as you are still eating certain foods to achieve proper nutrition.

What is important is for the mother to have normal blood sugar level, while getting enough calories.


While ketosis is safe and natural, major changes occur in a woman’s body.

Extra measures should be taken during this time. Below are some things to ponder for pregnant women, whether in ketosis state or not.

Never aim for weight loss

While keto diet is highly effective for losing weight, pregnancy is not the time to do it.

Regardless of the diet you follow, proper nutrition and having sufficient calories is the most important.

Avoid added sugars, processed foods and refined grains

When you are in a low carb, high fat diet, the quality of carbs is vital to ensure it is dense in nutrients.

This is basic for the baby and mom to thrive.

Eat whole foods

There are some carb foods that are needed for pregnant women to eat.

These include vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and dairy.


Always listen to your body.

Allow your inner wisdom to guide you as you go through the fantastic journey of your pregnancy, along with your low carb diet.

Pregnancy requires more relaxation and stress reduction…. Worrying about a diet and what you should and shouldn’t be eating will only add to your stress.

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