Everything about low carb diet during pregnancy, its benefits, harms and how should you do it. Expert advice and tips we mentioned are also of great importance.
Low carb is the latest diet craze to hit the nation. Though critics believe the long-term health effects are still undetermined, people like the low-carbohydrate diet because it’s fairly simple to understand, seems to work and there are now plenty of products to keep the low-carb fanatic going.
But what about living the low-carb lifestyle when you’re eating for two? Many pregnant women may be wondering if a low-carb diet is healthy for their unborn children.
Lowdown on Low Carb
Amanda Blake decided she wasn’t taking any chances. She had lost 40 pounds on the Atkins diet before she became pregnant, and her health care professional was concerned about her carbohydrate restriction. She sent Blake to a series of pregnancy classes at her local hospital.
“During the classes I received a packet with a nutritional guide I could follow for a balanced diet, which included carbs,” says Blake. “The cards they provided helped me keep track of my diet to make sure I was getting enough of everything. I did not want to deprive my daughter of anything which might be valuable to her development inside my body. My diet was no longer about me. It was about both of us and I needed the energy and strength to carry her.”
Many doctors are asking their patients to set aside their low-carb ways – at least for the duration of their pregnancies. But is it really necessary? Bernadette Brown, a registered dietitian and consultant, believes it depends on the situation. “Living the low-carb life can be a healthy lifestyle for the mom-to-be as long as she is consuming enough healthy carbs for normal growth and development of the baby and to meet Mom’s calorie and nutrient needs,” she says.
But Brown also believes extremely low-carb diets are not safe during pregnancy because carbohydrates are needed so they can be combined with fat fragments and used for energy. “Without sufficient carbohydrates, the body cannot use its fat in the normal way, and there is an incomplete breakdown of fat,” says Brown. “This produces a by-product called ketones. When ketones accumulate in the blood and urine, it causes ketosis – a condition that can cause brain damage and irreversible mental retardation in the infant.”
A Risk Worth Taking?
Other experts agree that cutting carbs while pregnant can be risky. Dr. Abby Aronowitz, author of Your Final Diet is one such expert. “Living a low-carb way of life is dangerous for the mother and baby, since it robs both of vital nutrition and fiber,” says Dr. Aronowitz. “Certain nutrients can only be found in carbohydrates, and these powerful antioxidants and fiber work together to boost the immune system. Fiber is particularly important in pregnancy to prevent constipation and can only be found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, unless the diet is supplemented with psyllium fiber, such as Metamucil.”
Dr. Aronowitz adds that while eliminating “white” carbs, such as white bread, white rice and white pasta, is fine to do during pregnancy, incorporating whole grains, fruits and other natural carbs is essential. “Our bodies need a variety of foods and so does a developing fetus, so the best thing a pregnant woman can do is incorporate a wide variety of foods,” she says. “If she is concerned about gaining weight, she should ask her doctor for a reasonable range of calories would be appropriate.”
Furthermore, Dr. Aronowitz believes women have special biological needs for carbohydrates because they have naturally lower serotonin levels than men. “Carbohydrates boost serotonin levels in the brain to create feelings of well-being, calmness and fight depression,” she says.
You can learn about pregnancy stages and get week by week pregnancy information in our website.
A Necessary Diet
Nutritionist Colette Heimowitz, vice president of education and research for Atkins Nutritionals Inc., believes the Atkins maintenance plan is a healthy way of life for a pregnant or lactating mother. “It incorporates a variety of adequate protein, a balance of natural fats and lots of vegetables as well as low-sugar fruits into a daily eating plan,” says Heimowitz. “The weight loss phases of any diet are not appropriate for pregnant women, as this is not a time to lose weight.”
There are times when cutting carbs is crucial during pregnancy. Kathy McLaurin from Pittsburgh, Pa., was suffering from low blood sugar when she became pregnant. Pregnancy worsened the situation, and she went to her doctor to talk about cutting carbs.
“He was of the attitude that if that was working for me, I should go with it,” says McLaurin. “I wasn’t the kind to go hog wild and eat no carbs at all so there weren’t any general health risks. And the baby was growing just fine.”
Gestational diabetes is another situation when a doctor might ask you to cut back on your carbohydrates. We also mentioned gestational diabetes in our article : What is Gestational Diabetes? How is it Treated? The key is to be in constant communication with your health care professional. They know you and your particular situation and needs better than anyone else and are in the best position to help you eat in a way that is healthy for both you and your baby. And, of course, always talk to your physician before starting any diet or exercise routine during pregnancy and any time.