Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Big Fat Low Carb Pregnancy!

Matthew David

I get asked about my low carb pregnancy in 2008-2009 a lot, so I thought I would finally document it for good and just refer everyone here. lol

The back story is that I was chronically ill for several years, starting in 2005, but did not know what was wrong with me.  My husband begged and pleaded with me to see a doctor. I refused because I was pretty certain that they would not be able to come up with a logical diagnosis.  I was right.

In November 2007, about ten years after our first pregnancy, and 35 years old, (yes, go ahead and laugh now!), we decided it was time to try to conceive again.  I was having difficulty getting pregnant.  I was also having some bizarre female problems of which I will spare you the details.  I finally decided it was time to get checked out by the doctor.  I had thyroid levels checked, routine blood work, etc.  Nothing showed up as being abnormal.  In late April 2008, I started earnestly praying and was led by God to investigate the possibility of candida overgrowth.  I did a spit test and was horrified by the results.  I was encouraged by a relative to do a 21 day vegetable fast, also known as a Daniel fast, for health reasons.  I dropped about 20 pounds in that short time but I still wasn't well. Feeling better, but still not well. 
I did some research on the internet and found that carbohydrate restriction was beneficial to getting rid of candida.  I started cutting back on carbs, not really following any certain plan, just doing a general restriction by carb counting, probably around 50 a day.  I also starting consuming large amounts of extra virgin coconut oil for its anti-fungal properties.  And then the unbelievable happened in August 2008: I got my big fat positive!

This is me, in the orange, shortly before my pregnancy.

Okay, So Now What?

Now I am a bit nervous. I have candida and now I am pregnant! What do I do? How should I eat? I was so confused.  

Back in 1998, at age 25 with my first pregnancy, (you're still laughing, aren't you?!) I followed the standard American Academy of Pediatrics What-To-Expect diet, including plenty of fruit, low fat dairy, margarine, and lots of whole grains. Cause you can't grow a baby without lots of whole grains, right? Well I was young and wanted the best for my baby, of course. So I did what I was advised by every pregnancy magazine, book, and my midwife.  The internet was still fairly new back then and pregnancy info online was pretty scarce.  In return for my obedience, I nearly flunked my glucose tolerance test and gained about 40 pounds. I was also extremely tired and depressed the entire time. I also had incredible post partum depression which I'm sure wasn't helped by my spectacular diet.    
Since insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results, I purposed that I would not follow the standard pregnancy diet.  Pretty obviously my past over consumption of sugar got me into this predicament in the first place.  

I did what any web savvy 30 something female would do. I researched the internet about low carb pregnancies.  Man, I felt like I was back in 1998 cyberspace all over again.  Except for information about how dangerous low carb pregnancy is, I could find very little specific advice.  What I did find was most recommendations were to follow the maintenance phases of whatever standard low carb plan you are following.  I researched the maintenance phases of South Beach and Atkins and sort of morphed the two.  I will interject here that I was very new to low carbing and since there is little info about low carb pregnancy, I was sort of winging it.  I also discovered that ketosis during pregnancy was supposedly a big no-no (more on that later) and so I determined the range for my daily carb level would be over 50 and under 100 total carbs. On a side note, I did not subtract fiber from my carb counts. I counted total carbs, not net carbs.   

In asking what did I eat, it would probably be better to tell you what I did not eat.  I avoided sugar, white flour, and most fruits.  I also did not drink much milk but consumed plenty of cheese.  I ate meats, eggs, cheeses, green vegetables.  Since I like structure and simplicity, I sort of aimed for about 25 total carbs per each meal and I ate about four times a day.  If I ate bread it was of the low carb variety.  I would occasionally eat oatmeal and beans in my chili.  I also found that having a small potato here and there did not bother me.

Uh Oh Ketosis

I have heard a lot of arguments about ketosis during pregnancy.  The who-cares camp uses the logic that a woman who is experiencing morning sickness will naturally enter a ketogenic state on her own without even trying and will deliver a healthy baby.

Tell anyone that you are going a low-carb diet during pregnancy, and everyone will start sending up red flags, especially those who do not fully understand low-carb or the misaligned Atkins diet.  The Atkins diet, by the book, contains 4 phases.  Dr. Atkins stated in his revised Atkins 72 book that he always prescribed the maintenance phase for pregnant patients.

When I did my low-carb pregnancy, as I stated earlier, I did maintenance phase and made sure that I stayed in the range of 50 to 100 carbs a day, since that appeared to be the recommended range. 

Since originally posting this blog, I have become more informed on fetal development.  The baby will naturally go into a keto adapted state especially in the last trimester, due to accelerated growth and weight gain, regardless of what the mother eats.  The main concern is to not go into starvation mode and to make sure that you eating enough calories, protein, and fats, especially saturated animal fats.  I have compiled plenty of resources on the Pregnant Atkids blog in case you want to do your own research.    

I want to add here that I am not a doctor and you need to do your own research and do what you feel is best.

A Lifesaver

In the process of searching for help, I found an excellent Yahoo group called Pregnant Atkids for women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or nursing, and doing low carb diets.  I left the group after my 2008-2009 pregnancy, only to rejoin after a surprise positive pregnancy test in May 2010.  Unfortunately I lost that pregnancy at 7 weeks gestation.  I continued to be a member of the group while my husband and I tried to conceive again.  In October 2012, I was blessed to become the new owner of Pregnant Atkids.  I encourage any woman who is interested in, or following low-carb while pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive to join us.  We still have a Yahoo Group as well as a closed Facebook group.  You can also find our companion blog here.  The blog is a compilation of all of the files and links that have been on the Yahoo Group.  I felt that it was important to have the information in a public and easily accessible place, so I created the blog.  I continue to add information to it regularly.

Low-Carb Friendly Pregnancy Eating Plans

I get asked all the time how a woman should start eating if she finds out that she is pregnant if she wants to avoid the dangers of the Standard American Diet, or SAD.  These are some plans that are already out there and have been used successfully by others.

Dr. Michael Fox's Insulin Resistance and PCOD Diet

In my research for the Pregnant Atkids blog, I discovered that a low-carb friendly fertility doctor came up with this eating plan for his PCOS patients.  This is a plan that you can start before pregnancy and continue while pregnant, if you skip the weight loss phase during pregnancy.  The third phase of this plan is very similar to the guidelines that I came up with for my own pregnancy diet.  Insulin Resistance and PCOD diet.

Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet

With my last pregnancy in 2010, I endeavored to follow the Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet, which is nutrient dense and all about helping nourish both mother and baby.  Unfortunately, I lost that pregnancy at 7 weeks, but felt that I should mention this diet here as a viable alternative.  This could be easily made low carb if you choose low carb options from each food category. Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet.

Weston A. Price Foundation Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers

While most people would not consider Weston A. Price to be low-carb per se, I am a big believer in pregnant women getting the most nutrient dense food possible.  I also like the fact that WAPF embraces healthy fats.  I am a big believer in eating real food.  As far as consuming grains, that would have to be a personal choice.  Weston A. Price Foundation Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers    

Healthy Baby Code

One more resource that I have discovered is Chris Kresser's Healthy Baby Code. His information does require a membership to access, but his blog is free.  He also had a very informative podcast with Jimmy Moore.  The podcast and other info can be found on the Pregnant Atkids blog.  Healthy Baby Code Blog

Urp! Blech! 

Did I get morning sickness?  Oh, did I get morning sickness!  Try, all day, can't get off the couch, every smell makes me sick, sickness!  I have heard that advanced age women who are pregnant have more enhanced morning sickness, unfortunately!  My sweet sister Jilly informed that her midwife prescribed half of a B6 vitamin before bedtime and half of one shortly before waking up.  When I started doing this, I got my life back!  I have also heard that B12 is also beneficial at warding off morning sickness.  If you can stomach eggs, pardon the pun, they are full of both B vitamins. They are also full of fat and a great pregnancy food.  I also found that peppermint and ginger teas were helpful with settling a queasy stomach.  

Weight Gain

Since I started my pregnancy already quite overweight, I was advised by my doctor to not gain more than 20 pounds.  I religiously weighed myself every day and pretty much stuck to plan the entire time.  Unless you want to include my husband's occasional plying me with chocolate milkshakes for their supposed labor inducing qualities, during the last week or so.  Delicious? Yes.  Labor inducing? Notsomuch!  Much to my delight, and my doctor's, I managed to only gain 20 pounds.  

How Many? How Long?

  Me at 41 weeks

Two questions I was asked a lot at the end: How many are you carrying? And when are you due? You look like you are ready to pop!  If you look at the photo, you can tell that most of my weight gain was baby.  And he did not want to make an appearance on his own, so we had to help him come out.  We scheduled an induction on May 11, 2009 at 1 PM.  He was born the following day at 12:26 AM.

Yes, that bump is the baby!

Kicking and Screaming

Matthew being checked out by the labor and delivery nurse

Matthew weighed in at 8 pounds, and 12 ounces, so half of my weight gain was literally baby!  I ended up losing the rest of the baby weight within the first month due to nursing.  Before you start getting jealous at how fast I lost the baby weight, I fell off the low carb wagon, assuming that I could eat as much as I did during my pregnancy, and gained back the 20 pounds. :\ I ended up restarting on September 9, 2009, and have been on Atkins low carb ever since.

I hope this answers your questions. If not, you can ask me in the comments section below, or on my facebook page The Low Carb Mom.


  1. Thank you for this. I too am having problems finding out about ketones and pregnancy. I am a diabetic and follow a very low carb diet. So now to up my carbs also ups my blood sugar readings. To keep my BS readings where I want them I also spill ketones.

  2. You're welcome! If you join Pregnant Atkids, you should find some articles in the files section that discuss ketones and pregnancy. If you slightly increase your intake to 50 carbs a day, you should be out of ketosis and still keep blood glucose levels at a normal range. My husband is a type one diabetic and uses low carb to help stabilize his blood sugar.

  3. Thank you so much for this!! I have struggled forever with my weight, and my last pregnancy was rough with gestational diabetes. I just found out I'm pregnant again and couldn't find any info on an lc pregnancy. I'll definitely be joining that group. :-)

  4. Glad that I could help! I am still active in the group as I am still ttc, so look me up! :) Congrats on your pregnancy!

  5. Thanks for the timely tip about candida. I'll ask my OB when I see her tomorrow about getting tested for it, because I've been seriously dreading that sugar test.

  6. When I discovered that I had systemic candida (which is more than just a yeast infection, but that can be a symptom, btw) I was more or less self-diagnosed. You can do a saliva test at home. Here are the instructions:
    I did low-carb to help to fight the candida. Yeast is fed by sugar, so limiting sugar intake definitely helps. I used a multi-faceted approach to get rid of it before and after my pregnancy, as it is not safe to fight systemic candida during pregnancy due to die-off. I no longer have candida but I have found low-carb eating to have many health benefits, so I have continued to eat that way post pregnancy. :) If you are interested in eating low-carb while ttc, pregnant or nursing, please join the Pregnant Atkids group listed above. I am now the owner-moderator and we would be happy to help you! :) As always, I am not a doctor, so please consult your medical professional. :)

  7. This is a handy blog for pregnant women! I am 31 weeks pregnant and I just found out 2 weeks ago I have gestational diabetes with my 4th child. Never have I had this before, so this is new to me.... My doctor just put me on a low carb diet. All tips and information would be get. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us....

  8. @Angela You are very welcome! Please join Pregnant Atkids if you would like more support. We have files and recipes and a group of ladies who are all in the same low-carb boat. :)

  9. Thank you so much for this post. I am 34, had 3 miscarriages and just found out this week that i am pregnant!! Im so afraid that i will lose this one as well, but the major difference is that i have been eating low carb since Feb 2012 and lost 15 a slowww loser i guess. i had my last miscarriage Nov after that i decided to lose weight and found low carb/atkins was the only thing that worked. I was hoping to keep that up while pregnant so when i found your blog i was so excited!! congrats on the sweet little one!

  10. Hi Coffee Owl,
    Congrats on your pregnancy. Praying you have a stick bean! :) I am so sorry for the loss of your angel babies, as I have had one myself. Some of us are slow losers, me included! What counts is that we are doing this for overall health, and not just weight loss. Please check out our Pregnant Atkids group. I am now the group owner and we have lots of links, files, and information to share. We also occasionally will get into some discussions. Recently we have discussed coconut oil and low carb bread recipes!

  11. This was some great information. Thank you. I have been using Atkins low carb diet to lose weight and having great success so far. I stumbled on your page as my boyfriend(48) and I(44) have decided to try for a baby, and I wanted to know if I could continue on a low carb plan during pregnancy (when that happens). Are there things I can do to help me get pregnant? I should also mention that I have low thyroid which I've had since I was a toddler and in total control. My endocrinologist is wonderful and will help me to keep that part in check.

  12. Hi Marsha,
    I'm glad that you found my story helpful. :)
    I have been told that folic acid (for both the mother and the father) is helpful for conception.
    I have heard many stories of women whose infertility improved by simply low-carbing. We have had a recent new member to Pregnant Atkids who was in menopause, started Atkins to lose weight, and got pregnant! Not likely, but it is possible!

    You might be interested in this podcast too:
    If you join Pregnant Atkids, I am now the group owner. The Yahoo group contains many helpful links and files about low-carb pregnancy and conception. We also have a private facebook discussion group for Pregnant Atkids members. :)

  13. Thanks so much for sharing! I love the livin la vida low carb show too! I lost 55 pounds doing pregnant...great delivery....wonderful baby and am pregnant again. I did laugh because my "baby" from my older kids was also ten years old when this one was born! Crazy! That's why we r having another needs a little playmate his age :) low carbon high fat works and is super healthy!!!

  14. this is incredibly insightful! I have battled with gluten intolerance and my weight for my whole life. Those pesky processed carbs always get me. recently my husband and i have decided to try and concieve.. I have started looking for information regarding low carb pregnancies .. thanks for for sharing!!

    1. Hi Amanda!

      You might want to join the Pregnant Atkids Yahoo group should you decide to begin low-carbing. I am the current owner of the group.

      It still is quite difficult to find positive low-carb info about pregnancy, nursing, and ttc on the internet, which is why I am creating a new blog, to complement Pregnant Atkids Yahoo Group. It is mainly the files that we have found over the years that are in support of carb restriction. I will share the link but it is still a work in progress. I hope to have it fully updated by the end of the week. Feel free to contact me personally if you have any more questions! :)

    2. Thanks for this it's great to see this info from a real person who has experience, rather than the articles encouraging to pack in the carbs. My husband and I had been on our low carb diet for 2 weeks (not for any health reasons, just to be healthier generally), before I suddenly discovered I'm pregnant. I was beginning to get a little disappointed that I might not be able to stick with it and have to undo the groundwork we started or if I were to stick with it end up hurting the baby. Going to have to take a look at the groups now :)

    3. Hi Rachel! Congrats on your pregnancy! A low-carb pregnancy absolutely is doable and we do our best to offer lots of support. Please be sure to join our facebook page and check out the companion blog!

  15. Hi, moms,
    Thank you for all the information. I still have 1 huge problem. Now I am pregnant but I have also a lot of overweight (a lot!), if I go on a low carb diet I will loose weight for sure, is this danagerous for the baby? How far I can go in lowering the carbs? Which carbs should I still take in order for the baby to be ok?

    1. Hi Nadya,
      I think I covered some of that in my post above, as well as eating plans that are low carb but suitable for pregnancy. :)
      If you are interested, I run a facebook group that helps give support to pregnant women. Lots of experienced moms who can help answer your questions.
      Please also check out our FAQ on the Pregnant Atkids blog:

  16. Thank you so much for posting this, as a type 2 diabetic who lost 50lbs by going low carb the idea of eating the way I did when pregnant with my daughter worried me not just for my weight gain but because I was on insulin and had high blood pressure with her.. so I KNOW I have to do something different if we want to try again.

    I am going to look for your Facebook group and join Yahoo for that group too.

    1. Hi Kelly! We also have a Pregnant Atkids facebook group. The Yahoo group has a lot of files but it is not as active as facebook.
      You will also want to check out our companion blog.