Vegan Mum Emily talks to us about her first vegan pregnancy
When I found out I was pregnant again, I felt a mix of anxiousness and excitement, and I was a little scared. Before going vegan I’d been vegetarian for over twenty years, and I’d been through a very complicated pregnancy during that time. The thought of embarking on my second pregnancy, and my first since going vegan stirred up mixed emotions.
I’m sure most people get the “well, what do you eat!?” question when you reveal that you’re a vegan, but when someone finds out you’re vegan and pregnant – well, it turns out people greet that news with a much longer list of questions…
“Is it safe for your baby?”
“Isn’t that selfish to put that on your unborn child!?”
“Well, will you bring the baby up to be vegan?”
The list went on and on. With friends, family, and doctors questioning your dietary choices, even the most committed and knowledgeable vegans may have their doubts if they become pregnant. I was told by my doctor that I was “very silly”, but with the exception of a very slight iron deficiency – which is by no means an exclusively vegan problem – I was perfectly healthy, so I chose to ignore his comments. I was prescribed Iron tablets, but having a fear of drugs and tablets, I opted to use Spatone to keep my iron levels steady.
When I put the doubts of those around me out of my mind, and looked at the situation clearly, I realised it’s actually really easy to follow a vegan diet through pregnancy. In fact, given that I’d stopped eating them anyway, I didn’t have to consider altering my diet to dodge that list of things that pregnant women are told to avoid – like soft cheeses, pates, and under-cooked eggs. I thought: “if a diet is healthy for me, surely it would be healthy for a little person too”.
I suffered from the dreaded morning sickness during pretty much the entire twelve weeks of my first trimester, and this can make it hard for any expectant mother to always eat healthily. At that stage, it was a case of eating what I could stomach; if it smelt good and it was vegan, I ate it!
I don’t have a sweet tooth as a rule, but I craved chocolate cake while I was expecting. Most weekends at my house involved plenty of baking, and the best thing about vegan baking is you can lick the spoon with none of the worries about raw eggs.
All the chocolate cake and wonderful vegan food paid off; I went into labour at forty-two weeks and gave birth to a healthy 10.5lb baby boy. My labour was long but natural, and after thirty six hours I welcomed the newest little vegan into my family.
Nutritional information for pregnant vegans
Leafy greens, vegetables, beans, whole grains, whole fruits, nuts, and seeds form the basis of an extremely healthy diet for pregnant mothers and their babies.
Vitamin B12 is important, and vegans have a more limited number of foods from which to get their B12 intake. However, there are plenty of plant-based sources fortified with the vitamin that are easily included in the diet. See our feature on B12 for further info and a list of vegan foods rich in B12. Other B vitamins, plus E and D vitamins are also important, and all these are easily available in a vegan diet.
Contrary to popular belief, calcium is abundant in a plant-based diet, and comes in a form which is really easy for the human body to process and digest. Vegans can get plenty of calcium, and so pregnancy presents no problems here. Dairy might be high in calcium, but casein – the protein in cow’s milk – is difficult for the human body to successfully assimilate into actual calcium, so it’s better to get our calcium from plant sources.
Folic Acid is important for both conception and early pregnancy – so if you’re planning to have a baby, try and include the right amount in your diet (about 800 micrograms a day). Vegan and non-vegans alike can benefit from prenatal vitamins to help get all the folic acid needed.
Vegan pregnancy meal ideas
Please note: I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, just a vegan parent that tried my best to eat a healthy vegan diet for me and my baby – giving in to the normal cravings like any expectant mother would. Below is a list of some of my meal ideas that I hope will help guide anyone going through the same experience.
- Whole grapefruit
- Cereal or porridge with almond milk
- Crumpets and marmite
- Bagel and peanut butter
- Mango, pineapple and orange smoothie with added Spirulina
- Or on a weekend: A cooked breakfast of Linda McCartney sausages, tofu scramble, mushrooms and beans
- Mixed bean salad with sprouts
- Tofu and quinoa salad wrap
- Avocado on multigrain toast
- Humous with wholemeal pitta bread
- Homemade lentil soup
- Mixed vegetable and chilli tofu stir fry
- Potato and cauliflower curry with brown rice
- Mock duck pancakes with Singapore noodles
- Avocado, beetroot and chickpea Buddha bowl
- Spinach, mushroom, artichoke and pine nut homemade pizza
- Avocado on toast
- Humous and vegetable crudités
- Dried fruit – mango, pineapple, apricots etc
- Fresh fruit of any kind
- Soya decaf latte
- Homemade chocolate cupcakes
- Alpro flavoured milk carton