Keto and Conception: What You Need to Know

10/23/2017 07:39 pm ET Updated Jan 16, 2018

The internet is overflowing with anecdotal evidence and unlikely stories of conception soon after starting the ketogenic diet.

Many women have shared their journeys, seeing their dream of motherhood come true after only weeks or months of ketogenic living.

But what’s the truth of it? Can the ketogenic diet help you get pregnant?

Ketogenic Diet and Conception

There is very limited academic research from the last 3 years on the topic of conception (or fertility) and the ketogenic diet. One study of rats showed that diet-induced obese rats had reduced reproductive abilities, and a high fat diet reduced it even further (1).

However, a recent meta-analysis had promising results, with five out of six reviewed studies showing significant positive improvements in reproductive hormones after low carbohydrate interventions. This review is far from conclusive, but suggests that further research should be done to determine the effects of low carb diets on fertility (2).

Ketogenic Diet for Medical Conditions that Reduce Fertility

While there is little research specifically on the ketogenic diet and fertility, there have been many recent developments regarding keto and other fertility-related conditions.

Obesity, Fertility, and Keto

Obesity often has negative consequences to reproductive health and fertility. Women who are obese are likely to struggle with problems relating to menstruation, miscarriage, and anovulation (3). Low carb (4) and ketogenic (5) diets have long been associated with weight loss while more effectively preserving lean muscle mass than other types of diets. Specifically, ketogenic diets can be significantly more effective for weight loss than a regular low carb diet (6).

Type 2 Diabetes, Fertility, and Keto

Similarly, type 2 diabetes is also commonly associated with sexual dysfunction (7), menstrual problems, and issues with the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus (8).

There is also growing evidence that the ketogenic diet may be effective for managing symptoms of type 2 diabetes in the short-term (9), treating, or controlling type 2 diabetes. In fact, the ketogenic diet may be more effective in improving glycemic control and weight loss for type 2 diabetics than are low-fat diets (10).

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Fertility, and Keto

Infertility, specifically anovulatory infertility, is incredibly common among women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) - in fact, PCOS accounts for approximately 80% of women with this condition (11). Note that many women who struggle with PCOS also struggle with diabetes and obesity.

An introductory study in 2005 showed low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets as effective for reducing body weight, free testosterone, LH/FSH ratio, and fasting insulin in obese women with PCOS. Two out of the 11 participating women became pregnant during the course of the study despite previous problems with fertility (12).

Tips for Finding Reliable Information About Keto and Pregnancy

With so much information about health and nutrition available, it’s important to know how to identify trustworthy resources. Here are our tips for learning more:

Talk to Your Doctor

If you are serious about getting pregnant and haven’t already, call your doctor. Your doctor will be your single most valuable resource in the conception process, and it’s important to consult with them prior to making drastic dietary changes no matter your situation. If you aren’t getting the answers you want and need, seek out a second opinion.

Research For Yourself

The internet can be another great resource when you are looking into the ketogenic diet and fertility - however it’s important to be careful in thoroughly vet sources.

Browse through academic research by searching on scholar.google.com for the latest scientific information on the topic. You can usually get an idea of the method and results by reading the abstract (summary) of the study, but even the abstract can seem complicate or confusing for many journal articles.

For simplified, easy-to-understand information, you can turn to medical websites such as WebMD, Mayo Clinic, and Health Line. These types of websites typically have medically trained editors and reviewers to ensure the accuracy of the information provided.

So, does current research provide definitive evidence of the ketogenic diet as a means of increasing fertility?

No, but under some circumstances it can reduce symptoms of other conditions which may be impacting your ability to conceive. If you are curious if trying the ketogenic diet might help your family grow, do further research and talk to your doctor.

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