Vegan and pregnant?

Be reassured! Research shows that veg diets are not only safe during pregnancy, but they have significant health advantages over meat-centered ones.

First, let us reassure you of the safety. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association) says it clearly: “Well-designed vegetarian diets, that may include fortified foods or supplements, meet current nutrient recommendations and are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.” This statement confirms a large amount of experience from vegetarians and vegans the world over. In fact, vegetarian, especially vegan, mothers have more high-birth-weight and fewer low-birth-weight babies than non vegetarian mothers.

Regarding the health advantages, vegan mothers have a risk of preeclampsia 300 times lower than mothers following a diet with foods derived from animals. Women who follow a vegan diet also have a lower risk of excessive gestational weight gain, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension and gall stone disease. Vegan pregnant women have a lower-than-average rate of cesarean delivery, less postpartum depression, and lower neonatal and maternal mortality.

Let’s also remember that moms with 9 months of pregnancy and perhaps several more of lactation also have longer term health needs of their own. By following a vegetarian diet, she will be reducing her risk of a number of ordinary diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer just to name a few.

The most important supplement for veg moms is vitamin B12. However, a good general prenatal vitamin source is a nutritional insurance policy for those who have a busy lifestyle and can’t always eat the food they ideally need. Although pregnant women have better conversion rates of omega 3 fatty acids to DHA than others, it’s still important to have a good supply of omega 3’s in the diet. Fish are not the best source of Omega 3’s, due to the mercury and other pollutants, not to mention the saturated fat and cholesterol they contain. Good sources include flax and chia seeds, along with walnuts, soy products and  canola oil. Plant based sources of DHA supplements are now available.

As with all other health concerns, it is very important to consult your doctor. You may want to show them this professional level information on veg diets and pregnancy.