Congratulations, you’ve created life! To help you along, here are ten things I learned during my vegan pregnancy:
1) Doctors Are Supportive of a Vegan Pregnancy
I was nervous that I would get kicked out of the doctor’s office when I told them I was following a vegan lifestyle, but I was actually met with praise. My midwife told me that a vegan pregnancy was a healthy way to go as she did not have to lecture me on nutrient-dense, calorie-low foods nor foods that need to be avoided because they could harm the baby.
I was anticipating this—lots of folks question my vegan lifestyle to begin with, so I could only imagine their snares when I answered their burning question:
“Are you going to start eating meat now that you’re pregnant?”
No, why would I?
“Well surely your doctor is telling you to eat meat?”
Nope, my doctor is enthusiastic about my healthy vegan pregnancy.
“Where do you get your protein?”
Sigh, the same place pregnant elephants do: from plants.
3) Getting the Right Nutrients on a Vegan Diet Is Actually Easy
Naysayers are mostly concerned about my vegan ability to get enough protein, iron, DHA (Omega-3 fatty acids), and calcium during pregnancy. But my vegan superpowers allow me to eat plenty of protein-filled beans and nutritional yeast (affectionately known in vegan circles as nooch), iron-rich blackstrap molasses and spinach, calcium-rich collard greens and oranges, and DHA that doesn’t have to come from fish (just ask yourself where the fish get it). Algae is available in various forms and can be mixed in with smoothies or ingested in pill form.
4) A Vegan Diet Makes Pregnancy Easier
One of the first things my midwife said was that she was happy to be able to skip the “do not eat list” lecture with me. Almost all of the foods I was probably already consuming were safe and recommended during pregnancy. Unpasteurized cheese, raw honey, fish restrictions, and beef cooked below 165 degrees Fahrenheit (because it could otherwise contain E. Coli) are generally off limits during pregnancy. Plus, I had a high level of energy from a nutrient-rich diet, and constipation relief from a naturally high-fiber diet.
5) There Is Actually a Lot of Literature Available About Vegan Pregnancy
Must-reads include the recommended vitamin and mineral levels throughout pregnancy. Here are a couple I enjoyed and found useful:
I also found information about having a vegan labor, delivery, and hospital stay (if you choose a hospital birth) incredibly helpful. The literature armed me with the knowledge and confidence that as long as the baby and I are healthy, it is my right to refuse non-vegan medications and procedures (e.g., Prostin). I also learned that packing your own vegan toiletries and snacks is helpful as the hospital may not be equipped to provide them.
6) Breastfeeding a Baby Is Vegan
This sort of ties in to the list of inappropriate questions my beloved omni acquaintances will ask me: “Breast milk isn’t vegan, so how will you nourish your baby?” Cows and rhinoceroses are vegan, and they breastfeed their young. Breastfeeding is natural, and since most vegans consume a nutrient-dense diet, their baby is getting the best possible nourishment. Still, if breastfeeding isn’t for you, there are nutrient-rich vegan baby formulas available.
7) Meat Cravings Happen, But It Doesn’t Mean Your Body Needs Meat
I ate a whole lemon with my after dinner blackstrap molasses tea last night. As a mid-morning snack today, I ate pickled turnips and dried dates. Pregnancy is ribbed for its long history of outrageous cravings. I once had a craving for Pepto-Bismol, which is not recommended for ingestion during pregnancy. Instead, I popped in a mint candy and realized that I was only craving the flavor (tip: mint can help calm your ailing stomach during the first trimester’s morning sickness).
Once, I had a craving for a cheeseburger once, except I don’t even know what a cheeseburger tastes like. Instead, I made myself a salty stir fry with miso and bok choy over wild rice and was deliciously satisfied. A craving does not necessarily denote that your body is lacking something.
8) Hydration Is Important
This isn’t strictly a vegan tip, but I wanted to put a plug in for it anyway. Hydrate, ladies! We know our bodies are made up of 75% water. Your body is thirsty, especially during pregnancy! Water helps you to absorb nutrients and carry those nutrients to your growing fetus. Try to get at least 12 8-ounce glasses of water per day—that’s only four glasses away from a gallon! Hydration is also a natural cure for the dreaded constipation most women suffer during pregnancy.
9) Most Vegan Organic Cleaning and Beauty Products Are Safe for Pregnancy
Many chemical cleaners contain bleach and fragrance which can be harmful to your body and unborn child. Cleaning with natural products or simply baking soda and vinegar makes it a whole lot safer and easier on your lungs. As for beauty products, don’t forget that anything you put on your skin, your largest organ, is absorbed into your body. Make sure you’re reading labels and aware of the ingredients. The shorter the ingredient list and the more recognizable the ingredients (like cocoa butter vs. triclosan), the safer the product. Vegan products will usually advertise as such on the product as well.
10) There Are Many Vegan Pregnancy and Baby Products Available
As many vegans know, not all vitamins are vegan. However, vegan prenatal vitamins do exist. I take My Kind Organic Pre-Natal Vitamins:
I liked this brand because the ingredients are made from whole foods rather than synthetic. It also has the right levels of vitamins and minerals that I researched (except for calcium and DHA, which most prenatal vitamins do not have).
I wish you well throughout your vegan pregnancy; it’s going to be beautiful!
Do you have concerns about vegan pregnancy? Any tips you’d like to share for moms-to-be? Let us know in the comments!