Low Carb Diet for Pregnant Women

If you're pregnant, you may be wondering whether it's OK to start or stay on a low-carbohydrate diet. Generally, obstetricians don't advise their patients to diet for weight-loss purposes during pregnancy because it's easy to deny your body--and your baby--the nutrients cells need. Low-carbohydrate diets, in particular, can result in some nutrient deficiencies.


Pregnancy Weight

During pregnancy, your body will change in many ways to support your developing baby. One of the important changes that takes place in most women during pregnancy is that they increase their body fat in specific areas; this helps support your nutrient needs while you're breastfeeding and also ensures that your baby always has access to plenty of calories while it's growing. The average woman needs to gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy, note Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz in their book "You: Having A Baby." As such, for most women, dieting for weight loss during pregnancy isn't appropriate.

Low-Carbohydrate Diets

If you determine, together with your obstetrician, that you should be restricting your calories or attempting to lose weight during pregnancy, you'll also want to discuss what kinds of foods you should be eating. Generally, low-carbohydrate diets -- particularly those like the Atkins Diet that restrict carbohydrates quite dramatically -- aren't appropriate for pregnancy because they significantly change cellular metabolism. Roizen and Oz emphasize the need during pregnancy for a healthy, balanced diet incorporating proteins, carbohydrates and fats.


Very low-carbohydrate diets result in ketosis, a metabolic state in which your cells send your body a starvation signal. This can lead to a number of side effects, and its safety in pregnant women hasn't been tested. However, there are studies that have found that low-carbohydrate diets -- while not necessarily dangerous in non-pregnant individuals -- can cause emotional and physical changes, including increased likelihood of depression, according to a 2006 article in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."

Other Concerns

Another concern with most low-carbohydrate diets is that they restrict fruits significantly and also restrict many vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are an important component of a pregnancy diet because they're rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, explains Dr. Miriam Stoppard in her book "Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth." Despite the fact that you may be taking a prenatal vitamin, you still need vitamins and minerals from your food -- and fiber benefits your digestive tract.


Photo Credits:

  • Fruit salad in hollow watermelon and fruits image by Elzbieta Sekowska from Fotolia.com

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.