Veganism continues to grow in popularity, especially among women. Because the diet is a lifestyle focus, it is not uncommon for women to want to maintain it during all life stages, including pregnancy, but is it safe?
Is Being Vegan While Pregnant Healthy?
It is no secret vegan diets can limit nutrient intake, primarily when not understood or managed correctly. Historically, the concern over low nutrient consumption, such as B12, iron, calcium, iodine, zinc, and omega-3 fats, leads to widespread concern over pregnant dietary practices. The primary concern was for the unborn child.
Many researchers still discuss the possibility of nutrient deficiencies for the baby if the mother’s diet is not handled correctly during gestation. However, as long as a vegan diet maintains sufficient nutrient levels throughout pregnancy, there is no evidence the diet is any better or worse than a conventional diet.
Current research suggests that consuming a vegan diet does not present any more significant risks for pregnancy complications than other diets. Some research finds that a vegan diet during pregnancy might lower risks for adverse outcomes, like postpartum depression and mortality.
The stigma of vegan diets during pregnancy seems to be a myth. As with any diet, a pregnant woman will need to ensure she is receiving adequate nutrition. Even the U.S. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and other world nutrition societies have backed vegan diets as safe and effective. However, these same societies express a need for careful monitoring during pregnancy to ensure adequate nutrient intake.
Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet While Pregnant
Current research reflects the safety of vegan diets, but some studies also suggest significant advantages for both the mother and unborn child. Because plant-based diets depend less on fats and sugar, focusing instead on fiber-rich foods, women are less likely to experience blood sugar spikes or high blood sugar levels, often associated with gestational diabetes.
It is also possible vegan diets can prevent certain pregnancy complications, like preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension. Research suggests the high consumption of plant-derived foods can reduce high blood pressure, especially when combined with exercise.
Beyond preventing pregnancy-related complications for the mother, some studies suggest vegan diets can reduce the likelihood of some developmental issues and DNA damage. However, more research is necessary into these claims.
Despite the rising popularity of vegan diets and the growing library of supportive evidence, it is still crucial to understand these diets do come with risks when not managed properly. If you wish to partake in a vegan diet while pregnant, it is best to seek guidance from a professional. Do not look for just anyone. Find a registered dietician, someone with specializations in plant-based programs.
Nutrient-Rich Plant Foods
As stressed, a well-planned vegan diet is crucial to a healthy pregnancy. There is nothing wrong with a plant-based diet while pregnant, but you should focus on nutrient-rich foods. Several items to consider include:
- Nutritional yeast
- Soy products (Tofu, tempeh, seitan)
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruits and vegetables
- Calcium-fortified plant-based milk and yogurts
- Whole grains, pseudocereals, and cereals
- Fermented or sprouted plant foods
While many future mothers worry about eating right to support their growing child, some historical speculation about the irresponsibility of plant-based diets was misleading. The main takeaways about vegan pregnancies are as follows:
- Vegan diets are safe
- Potentially better odds for safer delivery
- Nutrient-intake is crucial
- Depend on proper planning and management
A mother has every right to eat the way she wants when pregnant, but it is necessary to consider the increased nutritional responsibility when assessing eating habits. A vegan diet is safe, but you will need to ensure you supplement potential nutrient losses to provide a healthy environment for your future bundle of joy.