Is Low Carb a Pregnancy No-No?

by Alina Sandor

Even though low carbohydrate is a hot topic right now, there has been very little research on how it affects a healthy pregnancy.

Though doctors vary greatly on their opinion, the general belief is that moderation is always the way to good pregnancy health.

"Low carb isn't healthy during pregnancy, but you need to choose the right carbs, low glycemic index carbs (carbohydrate foods that contain less sugar) are best, for everyone, pregnant or not," says Barbara Luke, author of "Maternal Nutrition and Program Your Baby's Health": The Pregnancy Diet for Your Child's Lifelong Well-being. "These include most fruits and vegetables, as well as high-fiber breads and grains."

Soon to be mother of twins Nikki Schmitz of Lawrence, Kansas seems to agree with Dr. Luke, "I was on the Atkins Diet then switched to a basic low carb diet after becoming pregnant. I still watch my carb intake but am not as stringent as I was with the Atkins system. Since I am carrying twins I really want to make sure the babies get the nutrition they need."

Giving your baby the nutrition that it needs is the most important part of being an expectant mother. No diet should be totally restricted from one food group or another.

Carbs are important to your health in many different ways. Cutting them out could lead to discomfort, if not serious problems. You need 65-70 carbs a day to stay healthy, but you also need to make sure those carbs are high in nutrition to make them work best for your pregnancy.

First, make sure that the carbs you consume are high in fiber, meaning over 2 grams of fiber per serving, the more the better. Since constipation is common during pregnancy fiber is important to keep you regular. This combats the most dreaded of pregnancy side effects: hemorrhoids. Also, for every gram of fiber you consume, you will burn seven calories while digesting, so you can see how important these carbs are to your overall diet.

Don't think that since can have carbs you have a green light to over indulge. In a normal pregnancy, a woman only needs to consume 300 extra calories. Try to maximize the benefits of healthy carbs by making sure that you don't consume processed foods or foods that have empty carbs. Empty carbs are carbs that offer you no nutritional value, such as soda, cakes, cookies, and white bread.

Processed foods usually have a higher amount of carbs than unprocessed ones. Eating these can result in a quick spike in your blood sugar that will leave you hungry when your blood sugar drops again. This leads to a cycle of frequent eating and overeating, which of course leads to too much weight gain.

Many low carb diets also limit the amount of milk products you are allowed. This is particularly unhealthy because calcium is incredibly important when pregnant. Lack of proper calcium can cause weaker bones in the infant, raised levels of lead in the blood, and low calcium intake may be involved in the development of hypertension during pregnancy.

The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) for calcium is 1200 milligrams (mg) per day for pregnant women over the age of 24 and 1200 to 1500 mg of calcium per day for women under age the age of 24.

In the end, the key to good pregnancy health is good choices. Make sure that you are eating a variety of nutritious foods, and are not depriving your baby of the energy, minerals and vitamins that carbohydrates provide.

Alina Sandor is a freelance writer that lives in Idaho with her husband and two daughters, Samantha and Savanna. You can also visit her website.

Copyrighted © Alina Sandor. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.