Vegans are used to people questioning their diets, and it gets even worse if you’re pregnant. Suddenly people are so concerned about your protein intake and where you get your vitamins. You might have everyone from your family to your doctor to random strangers telling you that you can’t possibly stay vegan while pregnant. It can be tough to stand up to them, especially when you’re busy growing a human being.
Being vegan seems so different to what most people in our society are used to, so of course some people would worry and jump to conclusions about it being unhealthy. However many health groups say that vegan diets are fine during pregnancy. The American Dietetic Association say, “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
I had been vegan for almost 9 years when I got pregnant. Most of my friends and family knew by then that my diet was healthy and balanced, but I’m sure some of them worried a bit still.
Even I got a little worried at times. I was always so sure that a vegan diet was healthy, but when I started to experience the first trimester fatigue then I started to doubt myself. I know now that it’s completely normal to be exhausted in the first trimester and it usually gets a bit better by the start of the second trimester. It doesn’t help that many people experience nausea and sickness during the first trimester too, or for even longer
At the same time that I found out I was pregnant, I also found out that I have coeliac disease (which is unrelated to being vegan and means that I can’t eat gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other grains). So because of that, I was referred to a registered dietician. She went through my average daily diet and said that it was perfectly fine to be vegan during pregnancy, and my diet was fine. I also saw my doctor who didn’t seem worried at all that I was vegan. She thought it was great that I eat so much fruit and veg and said I’d get plenty of folic acid from them. I got blood tests done, which showed that I wasn’t deficient in anything. After this I felt reassured about being vegan and healthy throughout my pregnancy.
My second trimester and third trimester were much better, and I had loads of energy. I ate quite healthily, though not 100% perfectly, and my baby was growing well. I actually think being vegan might have helped to avoid some common pregnancy side effects. Like I didn’t gain too much weight, I had a lot of energy, and I never had problems with constipation or anything, which is common during pregnancy. It’s quite common for people to get low iron during pregnancy, but my iron levels were always fine. I got regular blood tests throughout pregnancy and took vegan prenatal vitamins. The midwives and obstetrician that I saw during pregnancy never seemed to worry at all that I was vegan. I just ate what I felt like, which was mostly quite healthy, and didn’t worry too much or count nutrients strictly.
So far I’ve been pregnant twice, and vegan throughout both pregnancies. I’ve had no complications at all and my babies thrived. My first baby was a quite average weight at birth, 7lbs 8oz, and was quite tall, and my second baby was 10lbs 3.5oz! They were both perfectly healthy.
Of course every pregnancy is different, and anybody can have problems associated with pregnancy. But I don’t think vegans are any more likely than anyone else to have problems. There are many, many people worldwide who have vegan pregnancies and them and their babies are fine. You don’t even have to eat a 100% healthy diet, just eat fairly healthily, and take a good prenatal vitamin. Don’t worry about it too much and don’t let people tell you that people can’t stay vegan during pregnancy.