What to Consider If Eating A Vegan Diet During Pregnancy
Today we have a guest article by Louise Palmer Masterton from Stem & Glory.
Most vegans have experienced first-hand the (well-meaning) advice from family and so called ‘experts’ on the subject of veganism! Put vegan pregnancy into the mix, and suddenly it becomes about moral choices. It seems veganism is ok when it’s our own choice but can be questioned when we are dealing with an unborn child. The idea that we are omnivorous and therefore a vegan diet cannot be safe in pregnancy is a fairly widely held view. Obviously one that I, and many others, wholeheartedly disagree with.
My own experience with being vegan during pregnancy is that it was completely normal. I had no morning sickness, no cravings, no complications, no deficiencies and delivered both my children safely at home. Writing this article got me wondering if my experience was an isolated one, or if in fact many vegan women experience completely problem free pregnancies like I did so I have also spoken to other women who had been vegan through pregnancy. Here are the things I think you need to consider when eating a vegan diet during pregnancy.
Getting the right nutrition
It is recommended in pregnancy for all mothers to take folic acid. With regards to vegan pregnancy, it’s also recommended to take B12 and vitamin D. Half of the women I spoke to did take supplements, but half did not, only taking the recommended folic acid.
Angie, who was pregnant twice 33 and 40 years ago, and has raised four vegan children, says she “just ate sensibly, mainly fruit and veg. I’d been vegan for 13 years before I became pregnant and had never been unwell so assumed all was ok.”
This was echoed by Lee who has been through two pregnancies; “Didn’t even think about nutrition, I just followed what my body craved and had zero nutritional issues.”
Helen, who has been vegan for many years, said: “I always try to follow a balanced diet. Supplements are recommended to pregnant people of all persuasions. I took vegan vitamins and iron before, during and after my pregnancy.”
All the vegan women I spoke to were very well researched on the subject of vegan nutrition. They were all aware of the need to increase protein intake in pregnancy by 10-20% and did so with greater attention to eating balanced meals. Not all of them ate protein-rich foods such as tofu, with many preferring natural pulses, grains and vegetables.
Good vegan staples during pregnancy?
Interestingly, all the women I spoke to followed a wholefood natural diet during pregnancy and none experienced cravings!
Soups and stews were frequently mentioned as ‘go to’ meals. Often mentioned were Marmite, tofu, tempeh, brown rice, aduki beans, lots of fresh organic veg, nuts, miso soup, peppermint tea and ginger.
Helen opted for bland but healthy: “When I had morning (all day) sickness I ate a lot of baked potatoes, as I didn’t fancy much else. Luckily, potatoes have vitamins in the skin, and so I felt they were better than other bland things. I supplemented potatoes with vitamins and iron. I also remember eating dried mangoes, cucumber, and miso at some points, and drinking orange juice. When I recovered from the morning sickness, I ate a lot of everything.
For Holly who was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes in her second trimester, nut butters were a life saver due to their high fat/protein and low carb content.
Tracey who had severe morning sickness treated it with “lots of miso soup, peppermint tea, fennel seeds & crystallised ginger”.
What do the health professionals think of vegan pregnancy?
The answer to this really did surprise me and may do you, too. Every single one of the women I spoke to remarked on how helpful and understanding their health care team were of their vegan diet. Not one of them, including those with gestational diabetes, was advised to eat animal products.
Says Che; “in my first pregnancy one of my Midwives was vegan herself and brought vegan biscuits to the antenatal classes. Second time the midwife was very supportive and unphased by the veganism. If anything, my GP and Midwives said ‘well, you don’t eat any of the stuff you have to avoid anyway so that’s good’”
Emma: “I didn’t tell the midwives that I was vegan because I expected a negative response that I didn’t want to have to deal with at that time. However, in hospital after the birth the team were very supportive in providing me with decent vegan food.”
It strikes me that vegan women are far less likely to have nutritional issues in pregnancy as they are already so focussed on good, balanced nutrition. Vegans are more likely to eat natural whole foods by default, and without exception all the women I spoke to had a very good understanding of their bodies’ needs both before and during pregnancy.
About the author
Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning restaurants Stem & Glory; hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurants, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredients, 100% made on site. Stem & Glory also offers click-and-collect and local delivery in London and Cambridge.
I'm a mum in my early 30s with over 15 years of childcare experience working as a private nanny, babysitter and a few years as a nursery teacher. Now I've got my own family too! I love finding great products for mums and kids.
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