Is a Vegan Diet Safe for Pregnancy?

pregnant woman

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Contents

Veganism and Pregnancy

A Vegan Diet During Pregnancy

Nutrition – it is hard to imagine a more important topic for vegans who wish to procreate. Poor nutrition can have a profound impact on your health, and your health as would-be parents can have a profound impact on the small humans you decide to grow.

In fact, even the health of your forebears can play a role – every individual on this planet is the sum total of generations of people that go before. Mind-blowing really.

I feel the need to point out at this stage that I am not a geneticist, a doctor, or in any way medically trained. My English and French O’levels (yes, I am both that old and that uneducated) were never likely to get me into medical school…or anywhere else for that matter!

But this subject is of great interest to me for many reasons, and so I have used a combination of research (done by clever people who did go to medical school) and my experience to produce what I hope is a useful, straightforward guide to having a healthy, vegan pregnancy – if that’s what you decide to do…

My Experience of Pregnancy on a Vegetarian Diet

During 2 of my 3 pregnancies, and whilst my children were young, I was following a vegetarian diet, although much of what I ate was accidentally vegan.

My youngest is (at the time of writing) in her late twenties, so we are talking about a time when vegetarianism was thought to be pioneering! My ignorance at the time meant that I was largely unaware of the vegan movement, although I was starting to attend the Living Without Cruelty exhibitions in London and educating myself further about the meat and dairy industries.

Following some well-intentioned, but misguided, advice from my GP I decided to re-introduce some meat back into my diet during my 3rd pregnancy. With hindsight, I needn’t have done it, but there was very little readily available advice around at that point about non-mainstream nutrition, particularly with the internet in its infancy – Google was just a twinkle in Larry and Sergey’s eyes at that time!

Not an excuse, it was a very difficult decision, but nurturing a new human is a huge responsibility and so I worked with the information and advice that I had at the time.

But that is also why I am writing this. My hope is that this article is informative, points you to useful resources and helps you to make the right decisions about the diet you want to follow in your pregnancy.

Never under-estimate the significance of the decisions you take during this time. It is important not to be judgemental about anyone who is trying to make the right choices about their pregnancy, whatever their ultimate decision is, although my hope is that this article helps you to choose to follow a vegan diet with confidence.

But it is your choice that you must make based on your judgement which is why having access to accurate information is so important.

Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy?

When I started my research for this article, the first thing that I came across was the list of foods to avoid during pregnancy. The UK’s NHS provides a comprehensive list.
What’s the first thing you notice looking at this list? For me, it was that most foods to avoid belonged under the following headings:

  • Cheese, milk and other dairy
  • Meat and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Other foods and drinks

That’s already starting to tell me something! The only warning about fruit and vegetables is to advise you to wash them thoroughly. Oh, and don’t eat liquorice root…

But clearly, that’s not enough information to make a decision because it’s not telling you more about what you should eat. Whilst there is not a huge amount of recognised research out there about following a vegan diet during pregnancy, there is an overwhelming amount of unverified information, advice and opinion!

So, I have tried to identify the key areas you need to know more about and to present accurate information and resources clearly and objectively. Each key element is dealt with separately and I have also offered some helpful hints which might help you to boost your intake of those important nutrients.

Finally, you will also find some suggested sources for any supplements you might decide to take.

Key Nutrition Facts for a Vegan Pregnancy

Those key areas are:

  • Protein
  • Vitamins
    • B12
    • B9 – Folate / Folic Acid
    • D3
  • Minerals
    • Calcium
    • Iron
    • Iodine
  • Omega 3
  • Choline

It’s important to stop at this point to say that the areas above are specific factors to consider in addition to eating a healthy plant-based diet containing lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, nuts, tofu, beans, seeds and legumes. Lentils are legumes (as are peanuts) – if you’d like to know the definition of ‘legume’, see my Lentil, spinach, mushroom and potato pie recipe for more information.

So, if you are eating a variety of healthy vegan foods, all these things should already be providing you with plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals. In my humble opinion, I suspect that sensible vegans who are eating a balance of the ingredients above have a much more nutritious diet than those people who eat dead animals. But that’s an argument for another day…

However, there are certain things that you should pay particular attention to as a vegan, and some supplements are recommended. This becomes even more important if you are considering pregnancy.

OK, let’s get back to those key areas for pregnancy and look at them one by one. Before we do though, remember that you should be considering all this before you embark on producing that new human. And that goes for all parties involved in the, erm, creative process…

Vegan Protein Sources:

Approximate Requirement per day: 71grms*

*Source: Mayo Clinic

Function of Protein

Protein is a fundamentally important building block in the body. Made up of at least 20 amino acids, you may often hear how important it is to get a ‘complete protein’. This simply means ensuring you get a good mix of the essential amino acids, so providing you are eating a variety of vegan protein sources, it is very unlikely that you need worry about this. And you don’t have to eat them all at the same time either!

Good Vegan Sources of Protein:

  • Soya products, lentils, beans, peas, nuts, seeds and grains. Eat a good variety of these every day to ensure you get all the essential amino acids
  • Some alt-protein meats are good sources, although look out for salt and fat content. These can be a great way to get some protein when you’re too tired to cook much, so don’t avoid them altogether, just use them carefully

Helpful Hints to Boost your Protein Intake

  • Snack on a small handful of nuts – stick to unsalted
  • Keep bags of peas and edamame beans in your freezer and add handfuls to your meals – great cooked into ragu sauces, stirred into pasta or added to a paella like my Vegan Spanish Rice recipe
  • Brush thin slices of tofu or tempeh with a thin sauce made from a teaspoon of water and a teaspoon of teriyaki or hoisin sauce, place on a non-stick baking tray and put in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes – a great snack, or serve as a side to lunch or dinner
  • Keep some milled flaxseeds and chia seeds handy and add them to anything from cereals to smoothies. Sprinkle on salads or cooked vegetables along with some lightly toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Making a pasta sauce? Whizz up a pack of silken tofu in place of your normal white sauce and flavour with things like onion granules, garlic powder, dried mushroom powder and white miso
  • Mash up some cooked cannellini or other white beans with seasoning, lemon juice, some nutritional yeast and a bit of your favourite plant-based milk to make a thick paste – use as a dip for raw vegetables, on top of a slice of sourdough toast, or spread on a sheet of puff pastry before adding your favourite toppings and putting in the oven
  • Finely chop or crumble some tempeh and add to sauces, ragu, or stuffed vegetables
  • Try roasting some cooked lentils or grains with a little oil and seasoning in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes to crisp them up and add them to any vegetable sides – great with broccoli and carrots – have some pre-cooked in the fridge or use a pouch or tin of ready-cooked pulses. Merchant Gourmet do a great range that are reasonably priced. Their cookbook also has some great, quick nutritious recipes – read my review of the Merchant Gourmet’s plant-based cookbook

Vegan Vitamin B12 Sources

Approximate Requirement per day: 2.2mcg*

*Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Function of Vitamin B12

A lack of vitamin B12 can increase the risk of your baby developing a neural tube defect. This tube is the channel that goes on to form the brain and spinal cord, so pretty important stuff!

Good Vegan Sources of Vitamin B12

B12 does not occur naturally in the vegan diet but is often used to fortify plant-based milks, yoghurt and butter substitutes. Nutritional yeast is also a good source. Marmite contains B12 too, but you need to be careful about the salt content.
You may therefore decide to supplement this vitamin (even when you’re not pregnant it’s a good idea).

Helpful Hints to Boost your Vitamin B12 intake

  • Sprinkle nutritional yeast on a variety of foods – it imparts a slightly cheesy flavour, so particularly good for things like scrambled tofu, sauces and ragu dishes. However, be aware that a very small number of people can experience discomfort with this product – see Healthline’s useful article for more information
  • Use a teaspoon of Marmite dissolved in water or stock to add to stews and ragus – but go easy on additional salt. Nigella Lawson is famous for her Marmite spaghetti, one for all you Marmite lovers out there!
  • Make yourself a hot chocolate with plant-based milk fortified with B12. A barista version will also froth up nicely – go on, you deserve it! A good example of fortified, barista style plant-based milk is Oatly
  • Consider a supplement – see the section on supplements later in this blog

Vitamin B12 is also related to the efficacy of B9, commonly referred to as folate, or folic acid.

Vegan Vitamin B9 Folate / Folic Acid Sources

Approximate Requirement per day: 400 mcg*

*Source: NHS UK – Folic Acid in Pregnancy

Function of Folic Acid

The importance of this must never be under-estimated because a lack of Folic Acid can significantly contribute to neural tube defects such as spina bifida. It is recommended that you supplement and start taking this dose before you get pregnant, continuing up to 12 weeks into your pregnancy.

In the US, the recommended dosage during pregnancy is higher according to the Harvard School of Public Health, and it is unlikely that anything up to 1000 mcg will do any harm.

Folate (B9) is essentially Folic Acid in its natural form. Folic Acid is used in supplements and is well-tolerated and absorbed very effectively.

You can read more about it on the Vegan Society website.

As vegans, we are likely to fare quite well with our folic acid levels providing we are eating a healthy diet and one recent study found this to be the case, with vegans having the highest levels of folate amongst all the dietary groups.

However, all the advice out there is to supplement as described above and I certainly wouldn’t contradict that.

Good Vegan Sources of Folate:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Beans and legumes
  • Peanuts
  • Peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Bananas
  • Fresh fruits (particularly citrus)
  • Whole grains

Helpful Hints to Boost your Folate Intake

  • Add 2 of the vegetables above to your meal where you might normally only have 1
  • Keep a pot of chickpea hummus in the fridge to add to sandwiches and to use as a dip for healthy vegetables
  • When you’re roasting that tofu in the oven for a protein filled snack, add a baking tray of small broccoli florets lightly oiled and seasoned into the oven to add a folate boost
  • Add peas to soups, stews and ragus
  • Batch cook some grains and keep in the fridge to add to salads, roast in the oven to add to vegetable sides, or make a pilaf – Waitrose have a great multi grain pilaf recipe which is easily veganised
    • Snack on roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, or scatter them on savoury salads and other dishes
    • Take a look at the Merchant Gourmet Plant-Based cookery book. It is full of great recipes with ready-made grains and vegetables that will help your folate intake
    • Snack on citrus fruit

Vegan Vitamin D3 Sources

Approximate Requirement per day: 10mcg*

* Source: nhs.uk

Function of Vitamin D

This much talked about vitamin regulates calcium and phosphate levels and D3 in particular has been identified as the critical element (rather than D2 which was previously the common vegan supplement). Your skin should produce this vitamin when exposed to the sun, but many of us are unlikely to get enough exposure to fulfil our needs, even in the summer.

Again, it is a good idea to supplement this (although you should be careful not to take too much) and there is now a good lichen-based source of D3 available in vegan supplements.

Good Vegan Sources of Vitamin D3

  • Mushrooms – particularly if exposed directly to sunlight! You can ‘fortify’ your mushrooms apparently by doing this, although not for too long or you’ll end up with dried mushrooms!
  • Fortified plant-based milks, spreads and yoghurts
  • Fortified orange juice, although be careful about when you drink this to avoid restricting your iron absorption – see the section on Iron below
  • The sun – and it’s free! However, be very careful not to expose your skin to too much sunlight. Burning your skin can have serious implications. Nice.org offers a good guide to the risks and benefits of sun exposure
  • Marigold fortify one of their nutritional yeast products with Vitamin D as well as B12

Helpful Hints to Boost your Vitamin D3 Intake

  • Get out into the sunshine for 30 minutes every day with a bit of skin exposed! (Although take care to avoid over-exposure in summer and on hot days)
  • Use fortified products – add plant-based milks and yoghurts to a daily smoothie
  • Incorporate mushrooms into your meals – great in a chilli or ragu sauce, mixed into scrambled tofu, or roast a slice of tofu in the oven with a large mushroom, both brushed with a little oil and seasoning, top with a spoonful of fortified nutritional yeast and stick it in a burger bun for a tasty lunch
  • Consider a supplement

Vegan Calcium Sources

Approximate Requirement per day: 1000mgs*

*Source: webmd.com

Function of Calcium

OK, time to concentrate on your own health for a moment. When you’re pregnant, that new little human will simply steal your calcium, so if you want to keep your own bones and teeth strong as well as theirs, it may be a good idea to supplement.

In addition, my research revealed to me the role of calcium in muscle contraction, including your heartbeat – that was a revelation! Who knew? Only me? OK…

Good Vegan Sources of Calcium:

  • Green, leafy vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach or chard which have calcium, but in a form that can actually prevent calcium absorption (because they contain oxalates). This doesn’t mean you should avoid them altogether, but limit your intake
  • Fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks
  • Calcium-set tofu
  • Sesame seeds and tahini
  • Pulses
  • Brown and white bread (in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law)
  • Dried fruit such as raisins, prunes, figs and apricots contain some and some fresh fruit including oranges, berries and currants
  • Edamame beans and soy products
  • Fortified plant milks, butter and yoghurt alternatives
  • Nuts, particularly almonds and brazil nuts

Helpful Hints to Boost your Calcium Intake:

  • Broccoli and cabbage can get a bad press but try steaming broccoli rather than boiling. Another great way of eating both these vegetables is by roasting them
  • Cut a cabbage into wedges, brush with oil and brown in a sauté pan before adding a little stock and roasting in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Add caraway or other seeds for extra nutrition and interest
  • Toss broccoli and cauliflower florets in a little oil and seasoning and roast for 15-20 minutes
  • You could also stir fry them and roast some tofu slices in the oven for a protein and calcium filled lunch!
  • Use a high calcium tofu like Cauldron
  • Spread almond butter on a piece of wholemeal toast – why wouldn’t you?
  • Eat plant-based yoghurts fortified with calcium – my personal favourite is Alpro’s Plain No Sugars
  • Make your own granola, adding nuts and seeds, or simply toast your own almonds and seeds in the oven and add to shop-bought versions, or sprinkle on yoghurt with some fresh fruit
  • Hummus, which contains chickpeas and tahini, is a good source – make your own or buy it in, but have some in your fridge to spread on sandwiches or use as a dip
  • Use cooked pulses to thicken sauces and ragus
  • Using a fortified plant milk gives you another great reason to make that hot chocolate…

Vegan Iron Sources

Approximate Requirement per day: 27mg*

*Source: Mayoclinic.org

Function of Iron

Right – ready for this? Iron is incredibly important in pregnancy – it is used by your body to make haemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all your important bits. Anaemia (lack of haemoglobin) during pregnancy can significantly and negatively affect you and your baby.

Contrary to popular belief, you can get enough from a vegan diet, but it can be a little more difficult because of absorption of plant-based (non-heme) iron. If you are eating iron rich foods, you can aid the absorption by ensuring a good intake of vitamin C. But, don’t drink calcium-fortified orange juice with your iron source, because the calcium will inhibit the iron’s absorption.

Complicated, eh? It’s important not to reduce your calcium intake, just avoid combining the 2 at the same time.

You can supplement your iron – check with a medical professional and get a blood test because the need to do this is quite common for women of child-bearing age.

There are some great vegan iron supplements out there if you need them.

You can read more about Iron in pregnancy at Tommys.org

Good Vegan Sources of Iron:

  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Cashew nuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Seeds
  • Kale
  • Dried apricots, dried figs, raisins
  • Quinoa
  • Fortified breakfast cereal

Helpful Hints to Boost your Iron Intake

  • Avoid drinking tea or coffee for at least 30 minutes before or after a meal because they contain substances that inhibit absorption of iron
  • Boost your vitamin C intake when eating an iron-rich food – eat an orange or kiwi fruit before or after your meal or add red pepper to a lentil sauce. Try my lentil and red pepper pasta sauce for inspiration
  • Make a tahini sauce to drizzle over salads or roasted vegetables – simply mix up some tahini, water, lemon juice and garlic with a bit of seasoning for a quick fix
  • Snack on some toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds and wash down with a glass of (unfortified) orange juice, or sprinkle them on your salad, making sure you have included vitamin C-rich foods like red peppers and tomatoes
  • Add some oats to your smoothie, or eat your porridge sprinkled with fresh berries of any sort
  • Yes, I’ve found yet another excuse for making that hot chocolate, but make sure you use a good quality cacao powder like Naturya (sweetened with a little maple or date syrup) and you will benefit from other minerals too
  • Again, have some ground flax and chia seeds to hand and sprinkle them on everything from salads to porridge, include them in a smoothie or add to homemade or shop-bought granola
  • Consider an iron supplement
  • A square or two of dark chocolate never goes amiss and provides some iron at the same time – that’s a win/win in my book…

Vegan Iodine Sources

Approximate Requirement per day: 200 mcg*

*Source: Western Sussex Hospital Iodine handout

Function of Iodine

Whilst there is no doubt about the function of iodine, there seems to be a lot of unfinished research about how much is needed during pregnancy, looking at the risks and benefits of too much or too little.

However, the link above is a useful factsheet from the Western Sussex Hospital Trust and I also take heart from the fact that the human race seems to carry on re-producing generally healthy offspring from one generation to the next, even us vegans!

Iodine helps your thyroid gland to produce hormones that regulate your metabolism, and which are important in the process of your baby’s brain development and growth.

Research suggests that even non-vegan women are generally showing mild iodine deficiency, but it is safe to say that vegans need to supplement, whether pregnant or not.

Iodine is not naturally present in the vegan diet although you will find that some vegan foods fortify their products – again, Oatly is one example.

The subject of vegan iodine can be controversial, with fans of seaweed eschewing the need for supplementation. Iodine content in vegetables is famously low, depending on the soil it’s grown in, and most research suggests that eating seaweed straight is unreliable because its iodine content can vary so much – not every piece of seaweed can be tested!

The problem there is that too much iodine is also a risk for you and your baby. That’s not a risk I would want to take personally.

It is probably better therefore to take a reliable iodine supplement like the VEG1 from the Vegan Society here in the UK, or Dr Seaweed’s Weed and Wonderful. They both seem to have good quality control standards, are reasonably priced and I would guess that they have only good intentions for all us vegans out here.

Good Vegan Sources of Iodine:

  • Vegetables may have traces of iodine, but nowhere near the quantities needed by the average person
  • Fortified vegan products – check ingredient labels
  • Iodised salt – use with caution so as not to increase your salt intake
  • Let’s face it, that’s probably it!

Helpful Hints to Boost your Iodine Intake:

  • Use iodine-fortified milk in your tea and coffee
  • Add fortified milks and yoghurts to smoothies, porridge, sauces
  • Erm, hot chocolate made with iodine-fortified milk…

Vegan Omega 3 Sources:

Approximate Requirement per day: 250mgs*

* Source: nutritionfacts.org

Function of Omega 3

Hands up anyone else who loses the will to live when they start reading about omega 3, omega 6, long chain, short chain, fatty acid, ALA, DHA, algae-eating fish that look like walnuts…could it get any more mind-boggling?

Confusing though they might be, they are incredibly important and play a huge role in the development and function of the baby’s brain and eyes and lots of other things, so not one to be ignored.

Consequently, I have stared long and hard at research on this, sometimes for many hours that I’ll never get back. And now, for my own sanity, I have translated it into something more palatable, I hope…

What is Omega 3 & Omega 6?

Omega 3 and Omega 6 are essential fatty acids that we can’t make in the body ourselves. We get these ‘short chain’ fatty acids from our diet, and our bodies convert them into ‘long-chain’ fatty acids.

Omega 3 = There are 3 main Omega 3 fatty acids – ALA, EPA and DHA
Omega 6 = LA linoleic acid in its ‘parent’ form

As a vegan on a healthy diet, you are very unlikely to experience a deficiency in Omega 6 because it is so readily available. However, it is possible to have too much, and here’s why:

Omega 3 & 6 both have to be converted (by an enzyme in the body) from ‘short chain’ fatty acids into ‘long chain’ fatty acids. Both 3 & 6 compete for that little enzyme, so if your intake of Omega 6 is too high, it’s probably going to ensure that this all-important enzyme is kept pretty busy, because it’s pushy that way…

So basically, if you eat a lot of foods containing Omega 6 fatty acids, you may reduce your body’s ability to convert the Omega 3s found in your food into long chain Omega 3s.

To add another layer of complexity, the 3 main Omega 3 fatty acids come from different sources:

  • ALA – found mainly in plant oils like flaxseeds, rapeseed oil etc
  • DHA & EPA – found in fish and seafood

DHA in particular is believed to be essential in supporting heart and brain health, protecting you from anything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s.

Tricky one for a vegan then, if DHA is found only in seafood and fish? Not any more! There are now supplements widely available that contain a vegan source of DHA – Algal Oil. Fish get their DHA from algae, so these supplements are simply cutting out the middleman, erm, fish…

Importantly for pregnancy, the baby’s store of DHA relies on placental transfer and so are determined by the mother’s diet. Speak to your doctor obviously, but for vegans, you really should consider supplementing Omega 3 DHA. Holland & Barrett sell a vegan algal oil capsule that delivers most of your daily requirement for Omega 3 DHA.

This is of course in addition to eating a healthy vegan diet containing many of the foodstuffs below.

Good Vegan Sources of Omega 3:

  • Oils, including flaxseed, linseed and rapeseed
  • Nuts, particularly walnuts
  • Green, leafy vegetables
  • Seeds – chia, hemp, flax and linseeds

Helpful Hints to Boost your Omega 3 Intake:

  • Have some ground linseed/flaxseed and chia seeds ready in your fridge and add to porridge, salads, granola, smoothies, buddha bowls, even your cornflakes. In its ground form, the nutrients are absorbed much more effectively
  • Stir some into homemade nut roasts or sausages (yes, I really do still like old-school vegan sausages using Sosmix. Another good one is made by Suma, available online at the Vegan Kind store and elsewhere
  • Switch to a good, preferably organic, rapeseed oil for all your cooking and salad dressings
  • Snack on a handful of unsalted nuts and include walnuts. I like a mix of almonds with their skins on with some lightly toasted walnuts and a handful of blueberries
  • Make your own granola and include good handfuls of seeds and nuts. Nigella has a granola recipe on her website that is easily veganised and adapted to include your own selection of nuts and seeds
  • Serve leafy salads alongside your main meals, and add a lettuce leaf or two to your lunchtime sandwich
  • Use flaxseed ‘eggs’ in your baking, or to help bind vegetable fritters together – 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water and left to coagulate for a few minutes
  • Make a walnut sauce like Meera Sodha’s Aubergine Fesenjan for dinner
  • Use this Anna Jones Almond Satay Sauce for…well, everything really. It is so delicious I can just eat it on its own…
  • Dry fry some pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or both, until they are lightly toasted. Remove from the heat and add a splash of tamari/soy sauce – a delicious topping for salads, to add to a sandwich, or just to eat on their own

Heart UK and the Vegan Society both have some useful reading material online about Omega 3 if you want to extend your research on this topic.

Vegan Choline Sources

Approximate Requirement per day: Not yet determined*

*Source: Healthline.com – What is Choline

Function of Choline

This is a relatively new kid on the block – a nutrient that is neither a vitamin nor a mineral and only fairly recently discovered.

Interestingly, a controversial report from a meat industry sponsored panel caused quite a stir about choline back in 2019 by saying that a plant-based diet cannot provide sufficient levels of it. The UK Vegan Society rightly advised that this is NOT the case, and published statements to that effect.

All that aside, it is an important nutrient for pregnancy and a deficiency is considered to be another cause of neural tube defects in babies. However, it is thought that people are not generally ‘deficient’ in this nutrient, although levels can be low in all diets. If anything, vegans may be better off than meat-eaters in this regard.

The Institute of Medicine in the US suggests an ‘AI’ (Adequate Intake) for pregnant women of 930mgs per day, more than double the AI suggested for non-pregnant women. But it’s important to remember this isn’t an ‘RDA’ (Recommended Daily Intake).

Good Vegan Sources of Choline:

  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Other Brassicas e.g. Sprouts
  • Soya products like Tofu
  • Quinoa

Helpful Hints to Boost your Choline Intake:

  • It is not thought this nutrient needs any special attention providing you are eating a varied vegan diet. Just make sure to include tofu, fresh vegetables, and grains in your diet

Is a Vegan Diet Safe during Pregnancy?

In my research for this article, I have found nothing to suggest that following a healthy vegan diet before, during or after pregnancy will harm either you or your baby. Yes, you should take the appropriate dietary supplements to avoid the risk of any deficiencies, but that is also true for pregnant omnivores out there too.

Hopefully, this excerpt below from research cited by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tells you everything you need to know.

“So updated evidence highlights that well-balanced vegetarian and vegan diets should be considered safe for the mother’s health and for offspring during pregnancy and lactation.”

Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

If you are considering a vegan pregnancy, I hope this article has been helpful. Please also use the additional resources I have included below to continue with your own research, and if you are still in any doubt, consult with a medical professional or nutritionist. 

But you need to trust your own judgement too. Remember that nutrition is not a topic given much attention in medical school, so there can be a tendency to dismiss a vegan diet as inadequate. If possible, seek advice from professionals who also follow a plant-based diet – there are some out there!

You could start by contacting this group of Plant-based UK Health Professionals.

And don’t forget, growing a human is important stuff and whilst things can go wrong for reasons completely outside of your control, your job is simply to do everything in your power to give them the best possible chance…

Please note that this article is not sponsored and is based purely on my own research in order to try to provide clear, sensible options in this complex area. I have also suggested some suitable supplements below for which I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through the link.

Vegan Supplements for Pregnancy

So what are the best vegan pregnancy-related vitamins? I have listed below those brands that appear to offer quality products and assurances that the supplements they provide are safe to take during pregnancy.

However, this is not an endorsement of them, and neither am I suggesting that you should be taking them. The above article intends to identify those nutrients that you may want to supplement based on your diet.

When thinking about supplements though, it is important to remember that you may be eating things that are already enriched with what you need. For example, if you eat 5g of nutritional yeast and drink 100ml of Oatly milk on a daily basis, you could well already be getting all the Vitamin B12 you need as a non-pregnant person.

Always consult with a medical professional.

  • Dr Seaweed offer a range of vegan supplements including:
  • Holland & Barrett have a good offering of vegan supplements, including:
  •  Another great place to buy your vegan Omega 3 DHA is NothingFishy.co, with the added bonus that they offer their supplements in glass jars and offer a refill service – brilliant!
  • The Vegan Society have VEG 1, a supplement suitable for use in pregnancy which provides vitamins D, B12, B6, riboflavin, folic acid, iodine and selenium. A great all-rounder, although without any Omega 3

Other Useful Resources for Following a Plant-Based Diet During Pregnancy:

https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/vitamins-supplements-and-nutrition/
https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/vegetarian-or-vegan-and-pregnant/
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/30/well/family/can-you-have-a-healthy-vegetarian-or-vegan-pregnancy.html
https://www.verywellfamily.com/is-a-vegan-pregnancy-right-for-me-4157838
https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/food-and-nutrition/vegan-diet-healthy-during-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegan-pregnancy

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