vegan pregnancy is it safe?
by Care2
Categories: Eats, Healthy Living, Vegan.

By Becky Striepe, Care2.com

My husband and I are having a baby, and we are both over the moon about it! Ever since we started trying to get pregnant, I’d been steeling myself for the questions and concerns from my doctors about my vegan diet. I was ready for them to try to pressure me into drinking cow’s milk for calcium or eating red meat for iron. Now that I’m in the second trimester of my vegan pregnancy, I wanted to share some of my experiences and some of the advice from the nurses and doctors I’ve talked to.

Because of a childhood illness, my pregnancy is not as straightforward as I wished it could be. Home birth is out, and we are one of those couples that’s going to need our doctor in the delivery room. I am not interested in getting into the specifics of my medical history here, but because of my history, I have seen more than my share of doctors since conceiving, so I’ve had lots of chances to bring up my vegan diet and get reactions and advice. You know what shocked me?

Not a single nurse or doctor has batted an eye about my veganism.

In fact, my diet puts me ahead of the game in some respects. Our health plan includes phone consultations with an OB nurse, and in my first call with her, I told her that I was vegan. When the time came to talk about forbidden pregnancy foods, she took a long pause and said, “You know, since you’re vegan, you don’t eat any of these things anyway.” Forbidden foods for pregnant women include things like certain types of fish, unpasteurized dairy products, sushi, and cold cuts.

She did have a few pieces of dietary advice for me:

That was pretty much it from her. When I’ve asked my doctors about my vegan pregnancy, they have all basically said, “Pshaw! Just eat lots of healthy food, don’t drink, and get a little bit of exercise every day!”

Vegan Prenatal Vitamins

Like all pregnant women, I’m taking a prenatal vitamin and at 20 weeks, I’m planning to start taking DHA.

You don’t need animal products to make a good prenatal vitamin. There are plant-based sources for all of the vitamins and minerals that you and your baby need during this time.

The prenatal vitamin I’m taking is called Prenatal One, and it comes from a company called Rainbow Light. It’s totally plant-based, and it even has the VeganGuard certification, verifying that it’s animal ingredient free. This isn’t the only vegan prenatal vitamin on the market, but this one is very easy to find. We found out that I was pregnant while we were on vacation in a tiny beach town, and the local CVS carried this brand. The Target by my house carries it, as well, and you can find it on Amazon.

We haven’t picked up our DHA supplements yet, since we’re about a month and a half away from needing them. My doctor recommended DHA starting at 20 weeks, and she said she recommends the same to all moms-to-be, not just vegan ones. Vegan DHA comes from algae, and I’ve had a harder time tracking this one down in regular stores. I did find this vegan DHA supplement that we’ll probably end up ordering if I can’t find any in stores.

Your prenatal vitamin will have plenty of nutrients to supplement your diet, but it’s still a good idea to eat foods rich in calcium, iron, and B vitamins when you’re pregnant. Here are some tips for vegans looking to get more of these nutrients:

Calcium

Worried about getting enough calcium without dairy products? Don’t you fret! There are lots of vegan calcium sources, and they often are easier for your body to use than cow-based calcium sources. Check out 25 Vegan Sources for Calcium for a great list of calcium-rich foods.

Iron

You might be worried that you need to eat meat to get sufficient iron, but this isn’t the case at all. Check out these vegan iron sources for more.

The real trick to getting enough iron is making sure your body can absorb it. Pair your iron sources with vitamin C to help your body use the iron available in your food. Some things inhibit iron absorption, and you should avoid the following when you’re eating your iron-rich foods:

B Vitamins

Two words, ladies: nutritional. yeast. Nutritional yeast has an excellent balance of vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid. Sprinkle nutritional yeast on savory dishes like pasta, rice, and soups. It adds a mild cheesy flavor and plenty of B vitamin goodness! You can find nutritional yeast in the bulk bin at most health food stores. I highly recommend buying this in bulk. Pre-packaged nuritional yeast tends to be wildly overpriced, and it’s the same stuff as in the bins.

Other great vegan sources of B vitamins include:

I’d love to hear from other vegan moms or vegan moms-to-be! What did and didn’t work for you during your vegan pregnancy? Were your doctors as progressive as mine turned out to be!

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

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  • http://twitter.com/sierratierra Lisa Kalner Williams

    Congrats on your pregnancy, Becky! I had a vegan pregnancy (except for an oversight on my prenatal vitamins) and I gained 45 pounds. Have to say that the 5-year-old product of it is pretty darned cute :)

  • Samantha

    Congratulations on your pregnancy. I was vegan throughout my pregnancy, and apart from a low iron count was fine (and did recieve help with that). I am a single mother but wouldn’t hesitate about having another vegan pregnancy if I am ever blessed enough to have a relationship with someone

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=790018794 Meredith Hopkins

    I’ve been vegan for almost a decade & I stayed vegan while pregnant with my son. The OB practice I went to required seeing each doctor there at least once; I didn’t have any real trouble from any of them about my diet but the doctor who I had originally been seeing for other reasons was especially supportive. I never had low iron or anything like that. My only issues were severe morning sickness that lasted through the seventh month and low platelets (which never actually caused any problem). The morning sickness runs in my family and, while mine sometimes made it impossible to go about my day, unlike my non-veg sister I did not end up in the hospital because of it. I did take a vegan prenatal and monitor what I was eating carefully but any pregnant woman should do that! My son is 6 now, vegan since birth, and the happiest, healthiest, smartest little boy I have ever met :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alexandra-Jane/615489210 Alexandra Jane

    My vegan friend has a 3 yr old who was vegan from conception. She’s a happy, bright, healthy child. Glad your doctors saw sense in your diet. A lot of people still think feeding children a vegan diet is child abuse and that we don’t have the right to force our diets on children (funny that’s what every parent does, no matter what they eat).

  • Mimi Clark

    I had a vegan pregnancy 23 years ago when it was not exactly trendy. My family was convinced that my child wouldn’t survive (“How could you do that to your child?”), but I read the literature and even back then (1988), the data were clear that there was a 1:1 correlation between diet and health. I was fortunate to find a pediatrician who was vegetarian and who supported raising my child vegan. My vegan-since-birth child is now 23, thriving, and in graduate school (and yes, she’s still vegan). My advice: Arm yourself with as much literature as possible. Raising Vegetarian Children, by Joanne Stepaniak and Vesanto Melina is an excellent resource (check out my review on Amazon). Best of luck, Becky! -Mimi Clark
    http://www.veggourmet.wordpress.com

  • L Austin

    Dr. Frey Ellis says in part 1 of this programme how they had extensively researched this and was speaking in 1976!

    http://lovemotionstory.wordpress.com/tag/open-door

  • Mimi Pastiche

    The absence of “forbidden foods” is a non-negligible advantage of veganism in pregnancy, but there are others as well (such as a lowered risk of gestational diabetes). I blogged about the “forbidden foods” here:

    http://comtesse-de-pastiche.blogspot.ca/2012/12/problems-that-pregnant-vegans-dont-have.html

    However, I’m sorry to say that nutritional yeast is NOT a reliable source of vitamin B12; only some brands contain B12, in relatively small quantities, and the vitamin’s presence depends on (somewhat unreliable) bacterial activity. Low levels of vitamin B12 may be linked to serious issues in pregnancy; it’s not something I want to take a chance on. See the end of this post:

    http://comtesse-de-pastiche.blogspot.ca/2012/12/science-of-vegan-pregnancy-01.html