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The Vegan View



The Vegan View

I've been vegan for 6 months and we're trying to get pregnant. I take a vegan prenatal multivitamin, an extra folic acid and DHA. My husband's family asks a lot of questions and are starting to get me worried about vegan pregnancy especially since I recently miscarried. I love being vegan and don't want to change. What, if anything should I be worried about with vegan pregnancy? And any suggestions for dealing with the "anti-vegan" in-laws, who are worried about my health?



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The Vegan View AnswersVegFamily readers reply:


Deborah:
As you will see by reading the Vegetarian Resource Group's webpage on pregnancy for vegans, [Editor's Note: Ummmm... and VegFamily's great articles on Vegan Pregnancy :)] your in-law's concerns are easily answered. In addition to how to deal with significant others who are concerned about you being vegan, you may also want to look into the gluten issue. Women who are sensitive to gluten are sometimes more prone to miscarry. That is an issue common to meat-eaters and vegans alike. jcamp2115:
Hello, I am an OB/Gyn practicing in Ohio, also a vegetarian. I actually wish that I had more pregnant patients who followed a vegan or vegetarian diet! As it is, I've only encountered a handful over the last 3 years. The information that I follow is from the most widely-read maternal-fetal medicine textbook by Creasy and Resnik. I have quoted from their chapter (a very tiny chapter!)..." Vegans generally require a B12 supplement for adequate intake. Vegans can also increase their B12 intake with B12-fortified vegetarian foods such as soy milk and meat substitutes. The vegan diet may also be so high in fiber and low in fat that caloric intake may be insufficient for pregnancy, and adherents to vegan diets are more likely to have a BMI in the underweight range. Intakes of calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, and iron may also be inadequate. With dietary assessment and counseling, such women can maintain their diet and have an adequate nutritional intake during pregnancy."You can absolutely be pregnant and continue with your vegan lifestyle. Just be smart about your supplements. Good luck!

Naomi:
I have been vegan for 13 years and have had two children during that time. I had no problems during pregnancy that were anything to do with being vegan except my iron levels going low. This also happens to people who are not vegan. You just need to take iron pills. My iron level went back up between my pregnancies without me doing anything. I did not change my diet while I was pregnant (apart from eating more!) and lost all the weight I gained (eventually). My babies were both over 8 lbs and perfectly healthy. I also breastfed both my children until they were around two years old. I am lucky that no one in my family is rude enough to criticise my life and diet choices, despite none of them being vegan. If people do, I suggest you reply politely, but take no notice of what they say. Some people mistakenly believe that we need to to drink milk to be healthy and won't be swayed. My doctor and the obstetrician I saw during my first pregnancy were both supportive of my veganism and considered it very healthy. Some midwives and health visitors were less so, but ultimately they can only advise you and you can always ignore them! The real isssue with vegans having children whether your children be vegan. I think the vegan diet is the only really healthy diet (unless you eat nothing but cake and crisps) and will give you baby the best start in life.

LJ:
Having just completed a pregnancy on a vegan diet, I can tell you that it is completely healthy for you and your growing baby. My baby was born completely healthy and weighed 9 pounds!I made sure that my protein intake was increased by adding protein powder to my breakfast shakes and eating plenty of nuts, beans and whole grains especially quinoa. I got vitamin B12 from the prenatal vitamin along with fortified oat and hemp milks and nutritional yeast.Let your concerned family members know that not only are you getting everything you need for your pregnancy, you are reducing your risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.

Angela:
I was vegan for 7 years before I became pregnant with my son almost 6 1/2 years ago. I ate healthy vegan food, took supplements and made sure to get lots of sleep and moderate exercise. We welcomed our son into the world in April 2005, and he's been almost 100% since that time. He's a perfectly healthy little boy, and I believe that the vegan diet has been beneficial to him. I went to a dietitian while I was pregnant. Before the visit I wrote down everything that I ate for a week and brought the list with me. She was impressed that I balanced my meals, and the only thing she recommended was that I should eat more fruit (1-2 pieces a day minimum) as I'm not a big fan of fruit-I like veggies and grains better. I recommend going to a dietitian (hopefully one that's familiar with vegan and vegetarian diets). Good luck, and as you welcome your little one into your arms, remember that the vegan diet is healthy for everyone-even babies.

Steve:
Dear 6 months vegan and pregnant,I would assuage (calm) your in-laws' fears in the same way that you would convince a skeptical M.D. doctor (often they are concerned, too, despite being highly educated). Address their concerns empirically (by collecting and measuring data).What I mean is, attack it this way:Doctors recommend XX grams of protein. I get XX grams of protein from eating tofu, black beans, peanut butter, bread, oatmeal, nuts legumes, etc.Doctors recommend XXmcg of calcium daily. I get this from leafy greens like kale, collard greens, and all the huge salads I eat (of course you do eat salads? hehe)Doctors recommend XXXmcg of vitamin B12, I get this from my vegan prenatal multivitamins, which also have lots of other great stuff including iron, folic acid, vitamin D and C, and so on.This will take some homework, but it's homework that you need to do anyways! And this approach is pretty much bullet-proof because it's based in fact.-Steve3 years vegan and 4 months pregnant

Amie:
I have a 17 month old toddler and am currently pregnant with a second child. My biggest worry with my first pregnancy was whether I was going to be able to gain the appropriate amount of weight to support my baby on a strict vegan diet. I avoided sugar and unhealthy fatty foods but was able to get all the nutrients and calories I needed by eating extra little meals throughout the day. (When you think of it as a meal, you're less likely to choose something that isn't complete like a handful of carrot sticks or a bag of chips.)I would have a healthy smoothy for breakfast with tofu and fruit and then a second breakfast when I got to work that was often a bowl of high quality granola with lots of dried fruits and nuts and seeds or whole grain bread with peanut butter. A vegan lifestyle is the healthiest way to live - how much better for your child to have been given the benefits of a vegan diet from day 1?! I had a very normal and healthy pregnancy and have a very healthy and bright and normal toddler full of energy and life. She loves beans and tofu and all her vegetables (spinach, mushrooms, turnip, sweet potatoes) you can't say that about many kids these days. The food she eats is 10x healthier than what other kids her age are eating. When it comes to dealing with inlaws and others, your best weapon is information. Is their diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes? Probably not. If you let them see what you're eating and share meals with them, they'll come to know that you're eating better than them and that they should be taking recipes, not criticizing! That has been my experience.Good luck and enjoy your pregnancy,Amie

Davie:
Let's go back in time for a second... Waaaay back in the day, meat wasn't widely available. Considering that you needed land, FERTILE land, to grow an animal, most people couldn't afford it. Meat was not consumed by most people, yet we existed throughout time. The two largest countries, China and India, also have the most vegetarians and vegans, so clearly the diet doesn't make you infertile, and this is what I would kindly remind your in-laws. I'm in the middle of doing a special on nutrients in my blog (http://dailyveganeats.tumblr.com). I've done protein and iron already, so reading up on what they do, how to get them, and why vegans don't need to worry may ease your mind and give you the knowledge to shut down your in-laws (or at least not let their ignorance get to you).Now, many of us in the first world have trouble conceiving. Why? Most likely our bad diets and stress levels, coupled with the fact that we're having kids later in life when our fertility levels start going down. Ask people what you could do to increase fertility, but don't tell them you're vegan. If they know you're vegan, say, "What advice would you give an omnivorous friend who can't seem to conceive?" People LOVE to blame veganism whenever you have a problem, from headaches to infertility, so you need to remind them that, hey, it might not be the culprit.In the mean time, practice good stress-reducing techniques, and I don't mean winding down your day with television or the internet. Both of those require your attention and thought, which is what you want to avoid. Letting your mind wander (but not worry) is a great thing to do for relaxation. You can also visualize relaxing areas, like living under the sea. I like to pretend I'm a 2000 year-old statue and I think about the people who may have seen me and why, the seasons, the animals. Sounds weird or boring, but in our mile-a-minute society, it's a very welcome break. Need to move? A run, a walk or hiking can also help to clear your head, and remember to leave your troubles and worries when you head out. Don't worry, all of life's stupid crap will be waiting for you when you come back, you can let them sit for a few minutes :)

Wendy:
IGet a good midwife/OBGYN who supports and understands your lifestyle choices, then respond to any intrusive questions from your in-laws with "my doctor/midwife knows all about my diet and fully supports it" and then refuse to let them debate the issue with you. As for being vegan and pregnant, as long as your getting all your RDAs, especially iron, don't sweat it. I've been vegan for 7 years (veggie for 10), and I've conceived, carried and delivered 3 healthy, happy babies during that time - not one of whom as ever had colic, allergies or ANY diet-related health problems. I firmly believe a vegan diet during pregnancy and breast-feeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby's lifelong health.Good luck and congratulations!

Meagan:
For over 20 years I had been vegetarian, continued with a vegetarian diet through pregnancy and then while breastfeeding decided I could no longer steal someone else's babies milk so the whole family transitioned to vegan. I have found the most improtant supplements to take are B12 and vitamin D. Then, depending on your diet and eating habits, maybe iron. I also made sure we used flaxseed oil every day (in smoothies, salad dressing etc) for the omegas. I find that a varied vegan diet (still with some processed and convenience food!) gives enough of the rest of the B vitamins, and I understand that the experts can't make up their minds about the safety of excessive folate supplementation during pregnancy now.Good luck with your journey and I wish you steadiness and strength to deal with the frowns and recriminations from others who don't understand the whys and hows.

Amy:
Hi, After 4 years of trying becoming a vegan was the only way I was able to conceive. 2 months after quitting all dairy I was pregnant. The doctors had told me that I would never have children but by getting rid of dairy my hormones balanced out and now I am in my 8th month. Lots of people have questions about being vegan and pregnant, but just as with any diet it is about balance. Getting in your iron from veggies and you B12. I have had a perfectly healthy pregnancy and they say that vegan moms have less chance of twins (not all those extra bovine hormones), gain less weight, less or no cravings, and vegans rebound better after birth. Not to mention easier labor because the size of the child is in proportion to the size of the mom. So go for it and don't let them get you down. Prove them wrong by doing what is right.

Andrea:
I've been vegan through 3 pregnancies and the only thing my midwives and OB were concerned about was making sure I ate enough protein. I purchased a hemp protein powder and would make a smoothie once a day or I would just add the protein to rice milk and have a glass. Other than that I did nothing special. I had three beautiful healthy children and they are all spaced 18 months apart. Good luck. I hope you get pregnant soon. The whole journey to motherhood is so special.

jslapensee:
I have been vegan for almost 7yrs now and just gave birth to a healthy baby boy 2mnths ago.My dr was very pleased with my health through out the whole pregnancy always commented on how I was one of the heathiest pregnant woman he has ever dealt with. My in-laws kept asking me why I hadn't started to eat meat or dairy yet, this lasted my whole pregnancy. I always responded with how pleased my dr was with my babies and my health.Just stick to your values and take your vitamins and eat a well balanced diet :)

Jade:
It sounds to me as though you are taking all of the necessary precautions to have a healthy & successful vegan pregnancy. I had a very healthy vegan pregnancy and have been raising my now 5 year old boy vegan ever since... he was born weighing 9.1 lbs! It surprised everyone, especially my family members who were all very concerned throughout my pregnancy and even tried to convince me to eat meat many times. I have to admit, I had to read a ton of books and materials to educate myself for my pregnancy and also to be able to explain myself to family members who seemed to know things that I didn't know nutrition-wise. Turns out some of their information was outdated and it is perfectly healthy, even optimal, to have a vegan pregnancy that is carefully planned (as any pregnancy should be!). I am now 5 months pregnant with my 2nd baby and this one is going great as well! I eat a varied diet, take prenatal vitamins, dha supplements and extra iron as well. As for reading material, I recommend "Your Vegetarian Pregnancy", " Pregnancy and Children and the Vegan Diet", "Skinny Bitch Bun in the Oven", "Simply Vegan", "Vive Le Vegan".. I could go on and on! Hope this helps!

Mary:
Most important advice to you - Hang in there and stay strong! Many women suffer mis-carriages and they can even be colleagues of ours neighbors, etc. and we have no idea. It's such a common thing. Should we then blame all the non-vegan women on their choice of the standard diet that is causing all this difficulty to conceive or then have miscarriages? No one dares attack their diet.Yet only 1% of the U.S. population is vegan. However, a vegan women is attacked right out of the gate if things aren't 100% perfect and blame her veganism. I know it's hurtful - believe me. Again, Stay Strong. AND make sure you have your husband's support. This is the time you two need to be a team more than ever. If people sense that the two of you are not sound on your decision they will use that as their advantage. during my vegan pregnancy, my in-laws did the same thing with me and my husband (who was a meat-eater would stop them cold.) He was awesome. Even though he didn't practice. He knew a vegan diet was a healthier choice. He told them it was our lives they have no business in it and that they need to stop immediately the conversation. They got the hint in no time and knew not to mess with us. You need that. This is just the tip of the iceberg. You have to be a team. Wait until you have pediatricians and schools/daycares to deal with. Veganism is hard but it's a way of life. It's who you are. It's a moral belief. And raising a child to be a compassionate person who thinks of the environment, their health and the animals is such a reward. It's worth it. About me: I was a vegan for 5 years and then had a vegan pregnancy. It was a great pregnancy. I exercised. I ate organic, vegan. I gained 20 lbs even. My delivery was great. My girl was super healthy and I was in shape in no time unlike the burger, fat-laden pregnancies some women (not all) have. Which is not healthy for mother or baby. And...My husband is now vegetarian working on being all vegan. Best of luck to you!!

Tarah:
My 13 month old daughter and I are the only vegans on all sides of our families. I am 8 months pregnant and am having the best pregnancy ever. My sister and sister-in-law are also pregnant and have been sick almost the whole time. I truly believe that my organic vegan diet is the only way to be sure that I'm not passing poisons and unnecessary proteins on to my children. My daughter has never been sick and has only seen her doctor for well baby visits. I have only gained the necessary weight so far. I feel more like I'm 25 and pregnant than 35. I can't make my family understand through voice but in time they will see that my kids and I are never sick, full of energy and beam with health. You can recommend books to them. One of my favorites is The China Study. Last year my husband and I started to try for our second baby and I too had a miscarriage. We were hurt and still trying but it wasn't until I went from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet in April that we became pregnant in June. Give it some time. If your family really bugs just ask them questions back, like why do they think it is normal for us to be the only species to drink other species milk?

Kat:
I was vegan for my first pregnancy and vegetarian for my second (adding a little bit of eggs, goat cheese, and baked goods containing butter). I gained the same amount of weight (35 lbs) with both and had my kids a few weeks early, all natural, perfectly healthy. I always had really high iron, whereas some of my meat eating friends had anemia during pregnancy and had to take supplements. I was nursing my 1 year old during my second pregnancy and was still really healthy. From my own experience I can say that being a vegan does nothing to prevent a healthy pregnancy. I was given some great info about diet from both midwives I had during my pregnancies. There are some great books out there for vegetarian pregnancies, I would highly recommend getting yourself educated. As for helping the in-laws not freak out, you could spend forever giving them info about all the vegan moms that gain 80 lbs and have 8 lb twins birthed at home, etc. but they might not really change their attitude until the baby is born and everything from pregnancy seems like a faraway dream. I dealt with some of this with my in-laws and it always seems like a bigger deal in the moment. You can send them links from veg friendly docs or moms that had healthy vegan pregnancies if it makes you feel better and you think it will reassure them. Don't be discouraged if they are too set in their ways to be on board. You just go on and do your thing, momma!

Betsy:
I am 40 yrs old, been a vegan since I was 18 yrs old...and just gave birth to my 7th child! Yes, #7 and they were all vegan, natural, healthy pregnancies and home-births. I know with your first you are often worried, esp if you are doing something different than most people in society. But, most people in society also have drugged-up, complicated births in hospitals too! Take it from me, as long as you are eating all the colors of the rainbow in a healthy vegan fashion....don't worry!! I did drink lots of green smoothies and ate lots of salads...moreso in my pregnancy. Get your greens! My pregnancies were all uncomplicated, easy and my babies all came full term....my smallest weighed almost 8 lbs and my largest was a little over 10 lbs. Healthy vegan pregnancies and healthy vegan babies. It's actually the healthiest thing you can do for your baby, and then breastfeed them when they get here. Good luck to you and don't let any anti-vegan people sway your decision from going vegan.

Melody:
I was completely vegan with my second pregnancy, from way before conception until now, and my children have been vegan all their lives, with the exception of the multivitamin drops & immunizations (the drops have non-vegan Vitamin D, but we switch them at 3 to a vegan chewable; I give them both a little DHA drops & flax oil mixed into yogurt daily too, since they were eating solids well; we added it to breakfast sippy cups of soy milk early on too). We were fortunate to breastfeed both of them some, one more successfully than the other, and added soy formula with the one who had trouble (for successful breastfeeding, snip a tight frenulum immediately, don't use breast shields EVER & feed on demand; we didn't with our first and it led to decreased milk supply that never recovered). During pregnancy, I took a vegan prenatal, calcium chews with vegan Vitamn D in them (separately from the multi-vitamin and with food for better absorption, and I took an extra one while breastfeeding), vegan DHA, iodine tablets from kelp (VERY IMPORTANT--I'd add it), and I was eating vegan food all the time (protein for morning sickness management). My first pregnancy I was vegan but ate some animal protein for nausea, but the 2nd pregnancy actually went better with using all vegan food. The kids are 5 & 2 1/2, eat vegan now too, and both are healthy, happy, and very smart. We had no problem getting pregnant (it was very quick both times). So you go, girl!

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