Happy Herbivore Blog

March 22, 2012

Plant-Based (Vegan) Pregnancy

I've been getting a lot of questions about being plant-based or vegan during pregnancy so I thought I'd put a blog post together on this happy topic. (Congrats to all the expectant Herbies!)

Since I haven't been pregnant myself, I sought out for tips and recommendations on HH's Facebook and several wonderful suggestions for books and websites came in (see below). 

I'm not a medical doctor or nutritionist (so this isn't medical advice, please talk to your doctor!) but I read that pregnant women on a plant-based (vegan) diet need more calories (though this is true for all pregnant women) and also need more B12 which you can take as a supplement (pills or drops). A lot of books and websites said pregnant women also need more protein (and this applies to all women, regardless of diet) but I've also read and heard that that information is outdated or inaccurate -- so I'm not really sure. I guess it's better to be safe than sorry, so pregnancy might be a good time to start drinking plant-based protein shakes (but again, please consult with your doctor). 

I've also read that pregnant women in general (regardless of diet) need more calcium and more vitamin D, as well other nutrients. Most women take prenatal vitamins or other supplements to help with this and you can find vegan and plant-based prenatal vitamins and supplements online, though some health stores and vitamin shops carry it too. Talk to your doctor about what supplements you need to take.

Dr. McDougall also published an informative newsletter about vegan pregnancy, including a part on morning sickness. What I found most fascinating in the newsletter was the research on how most morning sickness is related to meat, fish, poultry, and eggs and that morning sickness is effectively the body's tool to remove food that is harmful to the mother and child. Dr. McDougall notes that societies with less of a focus on eating animal products have less instances of morning sickness. He also talks about prenatal vitamins, omega-3s, and more.

A website that was recommended several times by Herbies was the Vegetarian Resource Group. They have a good section on how to determine how much weight you need to gain. My previous doctor would cut studies and articles out and post them on the exam room walls with sections highlighted. One I remember well, was an article about weight gain and pregnancy. While I don't remember the title of the article (or how long ago it was published), the section that he highlighted said that most U.S. women think they need to put on weight when pregnant and don't think about the harm of putting on too much weight. He even circled the part that said most women should only gain about 30 lbs but most women actually gain around 50 lbs. (Obviously this is an average, and if you are over/under weight or having twins this amount would be different, but do talk to your doctor about how much you should gain).

There were a few blogs and books that were also recommended by Herbies for pregnancy:

Plus book recommendations:

If you already have children and are concerned about raising them to be plant-based, check out this guest post on kid plant-based (vegan) nutrition by Julieanna Hever. We have also started an HH Herbie Parents group on facebook for parents or those expecting, to talk about raising plant-based kids, having a plant-based pregnancy, and other parent-child topics.

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