Ketones In Urine During Pregnancy: Causes And Prevention

Ketones In Urine During Pregnancy: Causes And Prevention


Ketones in urine are common in pregnant women with gestational diabetes. If diagnosed early, the condition can be treated and managed to ensure that you and your baby are both healthy. But how would you know if there are ketones in the urine, and whether or not it is a concern?

Learn more about ketones in urine during pregnancy, its causes, and diagnosis in this MomJunction post. We also tell you how to maintain the optimum level of ketones in the urine when you are pregnant.


What are ketones in urine?

When the body burns fat instead of glucose to produce energy, it produces a by-product called ketones. These ketones first appear in the blood and then in urine.

During pregnancy, the hormonal changes affect your body’s resistance to insulin, which plays a key role in glucose metabolism (1). This prevents the body cells from utilizing the glucose in blood sugar to produce energy. This, in turn, causes the cells to burn the fats.

Ketones may develop in the urine due to various reasons, but is it a matter of concern? Find out more about it in the next section.

Are ketones in urine normal during pregnancy?

No. Even if the urine has a small or trace amount of ketones, it indicates ketone buildup (2). If the level of ketone goes up, then it may lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a complication in diabetic pregnancies, which can cause fetal loss (3, 4).

Ketones can develop in the urine due to many reasons. Find out what they are next.

[ Read: Protein In Urine During Pregnancy ]

What causes ketones in urine during pregnancy?

Ketones can develop in urine during pregnancy if you (5):

  • Did not eat properly on the previous day
  • Miss your bedtime snack
  • Are on a low-carbohydrate diet
  • Fast during pregnancy
  • Have extreme morning sickness and diarrhea that leaves you dehydrated
  • Have any illness or infection
  • Did strenuous exercise on the previous day
  • Have gestational diabetes

It is important to know if the ketones in the urine pose any harm to the fetus. The section below explains the point.

Can ketones harm your baby?

Yes, they can. A study on animals found that the ketones can easily cross the placenta and affect the fetal central nervous system. It showed embryo growth abnormalities, reduced volume, and distortion of the internal organs.

The studies have also shown a reduction of the cerebral cortex volume, corpus callosum, hippocampus, larynx, lateral brain ventricles, and thymus. However, the studies on the influence of ketones on fetal development are limited (6).

You can test for ketones in urine at home, and track the ketone level on an everyday basis.

How to test for ketones in urine at home?

Ketones in urine are usually measured using a testing strip, which is available in pharmacies. Use it on the first urine of the day for the most accurate result. Ideally, the reading should be negative to trace (5).

You can take the test at home using the kit. First, take the urine sample in a clean container and dip the strip into the sample. Take it out and leave it aside for a few minutes. When the color of the strip pad changes,  compare it to the color chart mentioned on the kit bottle (5). If the ketone level in the urine is moderate or large, then the doctor will suggest the treatment accordingly.

The section below throws light on some preventive measures to control the ketone levels in urine during pregnancy.

How can you prevent ketones in urine?

Here are a few simple steps to keep your ketones at a healthy level (5):

  • Never skip meals
  • Eat three snacks and three meals every day
  • Include protein in your diet
  • Do not cut down on carbohydrates during pregnancy

If ketones are present in trace amounts, it can be rectified by changing your diet and lifestyle a little. However, early medical attention becomes necessary in the case of higher ketone levels in the urine. This also helps to lower the chances of any pregnancy complications affecting you and your baby.

[ Read: What Causes Gestational Diabetes ]

Were you diagnosed with high ketones in urine during pregnancy? Share your experience in the comment section below.


1.Understanding Insulin Resistance; American Diabetes Association (2019)
2.Checking for Ketones; American Diabetes Association (1995-2019)
3.Ketones in Urine; NIH
4. Michael B. Schneider, et al.; Pregnancy Complicated by Diabetic Ketoacidosis; American Diabetes Association
5. Learning about ketones; Allina Health’s Patient Education Department (2014)
6. Agata Bronisz , et al.; Pregnancy Ketonemia and Development of the Fetal Central Nervous System; NCBI (2018)
Recommended Articles:
Was this information helpful?

The following two tabs change content below.

shreeja pillai

Postgraduate in Chemistry and content writer. She has worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company and also holds a diploma in pharmaceutical regulatory affairs. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. She is a writer for MomJunction and aims at providing informative articles based on health and wellness. Apart from writing, she takes a great interest in music and traveling. know more about her at
FaceBook Pinterest Twitter Featured Image