The high-fat, low-carb keto diet has earned a reputation as more than just a weight-loss plan. Animal studies suggest that it might have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects, and the trendy diet may also help ease headaches.
But one man is now claiming that not only did keto help him and his wife lose weight—it also helped them conceive.
On Monday, the man took to Reddit to excitedly share the news that his wife was expecting a baby after the two of them had been following the keto diet for three months.
“My wife just called me and told me she was pregnant,” the Original Poster (or OP in Reddit lingo) wrote. “We had to do IVF for our last baby and we were gearing up for the next round! We’ve both been on keto for 3 months now and have lost 25 lbs each.”
The OP explained that the couple had been trying for their second baby for two years, but because his sperm count and sperm quality “were atrocious,” as he put it, they were unable to conceive on their own. To have their first child, it took three years of trying before they turned to IVF.
“And now 3 months after cutting out all sugar she’s pregnant!!!!” the OP happily ended his post.
Within a day, the post blew up, receiving more than 1,800 upvotes and over 200 comments. Many users wrote that they'd heard of this phenomenon before.
“Keto babies are a thing,” one user wrote. “Lots of people end up pregnant, wanted or not. My husband and I take extra precautions while I'm on keto. But this sounds like a good thing for y'all, so CONGRATS!!”
“Are you us? Our #1 was ivf...7 months of Keto and BAM..pregnant after 2 months of passively trying before gearing up for another round of IVF,” another user added.
As that second user's comment shows, the OP and his wife aren't the only couple to believe that the keto diet did the trick when it came to boosting fertility. Facebook has a handful of “keto baby” groups, and message boards all over the internet show that dozens of others have reported getting pregnant after going keto.
So can the keto diet actually improve fertility? Unfortunately, science doesn't have a clear answer.
Some research supports a possible connection: A 2017 study in the journal Nutrients suggests that a low-carb diet might have a positive effect on hormones that influence female fertility.
Another study, published in 2018 by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, suggests that the diet may also help women with PCOS improve their baby-making odds. PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a disorder that causes an estimated 10% of women of childbearing age to produce higher-than-normal levels of male hormones, which in turn influences fertility.
Health reached out to two fertility doctors for their insight, and both suggested that keto's supposed fertility powers might be a byproduct of its success as a weight-loss plan.
“I don’t think there’s anything specific to the keto diet that helps with fertility purposes,” Tanmoy Mukherjee, MD, associate director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, tells Health. “But any kind of diet that helps bring you to a healthy weight can help with that. Any diet that helps you achieve a healthier lifestyle will likely impact your ability to be fertile.”
Frederick Licciardi, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and professor at NYU Langone Fertility Center in New York, also believes that weight loss may have been the deciding factor for the OP, rather than something specific about the keto diet itself.
"It makes sense that they would have an easier time getting pregnant after weight loss," Dr. Licciardi tells Health. "If you can get your BMI down to a reasonable number, whether you're a man or a woman, it will help with your overall health and thus your fertility."
To be clear, carrying extra pounds is not a direct cause of infertility itself. But obesity can affect hormone production and make it more difficult for a woman to get pregnant, William Schlaff, MD, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Jefferson Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, previously told Health. "The more weight a woman gains over her healthy weight, the more she tends to experience decreased ovarian function," he said.
Of course, we can't know for sure exactly how the keto diet helped the OP and his wife conceive—or if the keto diet played a role at all. But the fertility experts we spoke to didn't rule it out. Perhaps the parents in those keto baby groups are onto something.
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