Effects of A Keto Diet During Pregnancy: Does It Cause Birth Defects?

Many people think that the keto diet is just another modern fad diet but this could not be further from the truth. The Keto diet was developed almost 100 years ago to treat epilepsy in children. Over the years, researchers found that this diet may also help to treat neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism and even sleep disorders.

The keto diet has also proven to be an effective treatment for obesity and weight gain. Doctors recommend that overweight women take steps to control their weight before and even during pregnancy. However, many women are not sure if they can use the keto diet during pregnancy.

Effects of a Keto Diet during Pregnancy

Normally, your body converts the carbs in your diet into glucose which is then used as fuel. However, when you follow a low-carb diet, your liver uses fat to create ketones which replace glucose as an energy source – a process known as ketosis. This helps to keep your weight under control.

The ratio of macronutrients in a typical keto diet is 70% fats, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrates – which means that your carb intake is severely restricted. Studies show that metabolism modifications during pregnancy result in ketosis that is 3 times higher during pregnancy.

This increases a woman’s risk of ketoacidosis – where the level of ketones is dangerously high and makes the blood too acidic. Researchers found that ketones can also pass freely through the placenta to the baby. This is why a keto diet is generally not recommended during pregnancy.

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Does a Keto Diet cause Birth Defects?

You can use the keto diet for weight loss if your doctor has recommended that you lose weight before you get pregnant. Several studies show that following a keto diet for a prolonged period offers both short-term and long-term benefits.

The short-term benefits of a keto diet include weight loss and reduced BMI (body mass index) while the long-term benefits include lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels. These studies also showed that there were no serious side effects from following a keto diet.

Following a keto diet before you get pregnant will not pose any health risk to your baby. However, animal studies indicate that following a keto diet during pregnancy could result in alterations in embryonic organ growth including a larger heart and a smaller brain.

They also had a smaller pharynx but an enlarged cervical spine, thalamus and midbrain. These alterations can result in organ dysfunction and behavioral changes later in life. Although there have been no human studies on the effects of a keto diet during pregnancy, doctors recommend avoiding them until there is definitive proof.

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Can you cut carbs during pregnancy?

Women who had a healthy BMI before they got pregnant generally require about 2,200 calories a day. Since a keto diet restricts carb intake to just 5% of the daily calorie intake, just 2 apples would meet their quota of carbs for the day. Fruits are high in carbs but they are also great sources of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that promote health.

This is why pregnant women are encouraged to eat a variety of fruits on a daily basis. However, you can still reduce your overall carb intake by eliminating high-carb unhealthy foods from your diet. This means that you will need to empty your fridge of all sugary treats including colas, cakes, chocolate and pastries. Ice cream is a common pregnancy craving so make your own yogurt and cantaloupe/ watermelon popsicle as a healthy low-carb substitute.

Most pregnant women require a daily intake of 1,800 calories in the 1st trimester, 2,200 calories in the 2nd trimester and 2,400 calories in the 3rd trimester. You can expect to gain 25-35 pounds but overweight women will need to aim for reduced weight gain while underweight women should aim for increased weight gain.

Do not go on a weight loss diet during your pregnancy unless your doctor recommends one. However, you should follow a healthy diet to prevent excessive weight gain which could have a negative impact on your baby’s health. Health experts warn that babies born to overweight mothers are at a higher risk for obesity, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.

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What To Expect experts say that you should focus more on the quality of the foods in your diet and rely on your natural hunger and satiety cues to determine the quantity.

Eggs, salmon and greens are all excellent options for a pregnancy diet plan. Eggs contain choline which aids fetal brain development while salmon is low in mercury but high in omega-3 fatty acids which help in eye and nerve development.

Greens are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals such as beta-carotene, lutein and flavonoids. After your baby is born, you might need to stay off a keto diet while breastfeeding. However, once your child is older, you can implement a keto plan for the family to stay healthy. There are also plenty of keto snacks you can include in your kids’ diet to reduce their intake of junk foods.

Further Reading

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Effects of a Keto Diet during Pregnancy



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