Friday, May 11, 2012

Pregnant and Vegan

my extremely healthy, usually happy baby
By the time I got pregnant I had been a vegan for five years. Everyone knew me as vegan and the questions of “why” and “what do you eat” had long since past. So when I got pregnant a year ago I was surprised at the constant question, “Are you going to have a vegan pregnancy?” The question startled me every time because I hadn’t thought about it any other way. In fact I believed (and still do) that the vegan diet was the healthier choice for my fetus. Most questions were just curious, some cautious, but a few down right caustic. 

“Do you know what you’re doing to your unborn child?” Their eyes would say. “How can you be so selfish?” And, “what kind of mother are you going to be?”

Was I being selfish? Or perhaps just naive and clueless? I spent a lot of early prenatal appointments talking to my doctor about this, making sure I hadn't just been reading one-sided literature that would severely harm my child.

My wonderfully open-minded doctor helped me regain my confidence and with a little extra attention on my diet I birthed an extremely healthy, usually happy baby. 

This is what I did:

Raspberry Vanilla Protein Shake
1. Protein: A pregnant woman needs 75 grams of protein a day! That is a lot. In order to start off right I made sure to eat at least 30 grams for my morning meal. I did this through soy protein shakes I would make in bulk for the entire week, protein bars (I fell in love with Larabars  and started making my own version), and lots and lots of tofu and beans.

2. Calcium: I made sure to buy calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice, ate calcium  chews (until I got so sick of them I had to hide the bag), and ate a lot of dark leafy greens. Did you know 3/4 cup collard greens as more calcium than 1 cup cows milk?

3. Supplements: Taking supplements was a new practice, but a very important one. I took (and still take for breast feeding) Rainbow Light Prenatal One, a fantastic vegetarian prenatal that only needs to be taken once a day, B12 (very important pregnant moms!), and Iron. I can proudly say my iron levels stayed great throughout my whole pregnancy).

4. Read. I spent a lot of time on websites and in the backs of cookbooks determining my nutritional needs and planning out how to fulfill them.There are many great resources for vegans during pregnancy. The Vegan Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal, one of the first books dedicated solely for pregnant vegans, is a great resource I came across after giving birth. I found it important to stay well informed both for myself and my concerned friends and family.

5. Support. I was very fortunate to have a doctor who supported my veganism but I have heard stories of people defending their decision to their health care providers and not receiving their support. It is so important to find a nurse, midwife, or doctor who will work with your lifestyle choices and believe in the inherent health of a vegan diet.

6. Cravings. When the cravings came, I quickly found foods that would satisfy. The grocery store two blocks away carried vegan scones and I spent a lot of my days off stocking up. At home when I craved something sweet and chocolatey I had fast go-to recipes like my no-bake cookies. There was also a time I ate a lot of processed fake meat. Aware of all the foods available to me and with reliable, fast recipes there was never a time I was unable to satisfy a craving.

And in the end...

I had a great, though not without struggles, birth and a beautiful baby girl...wanna take another look? 

As my journey continues I learn how to have a vegan baby who will grow into a vegan toddler. I'm sure there will be lots to share. And maybe next time I'll tell you what I did with my placenta. :)

Do you have any vegan pregnancy thoughts or stories?


  1. I appreciate this article - I'm not quite vegan since I will eat chicken and white fish. but otherwise due to food allergies I am. I find we never get invited out to supper any more because of this - no one know what on earth I eat. I'm currently pregnant though and I've been drinking almond milk and trying to just eat as healthy as I can and take a multi-vitamin a day! Baby looked perfect on the ultrasound! (find out come september - but I'm pretty confident she'll come out perfect)

  2. Congrats on the baby! I'm glad everything looks good and you're feeling well. If you have any questions I'd love to help.

  3. I had a very similar story: vegan for 4 years, all the questions I thought I was done with and then a beautiful 8 pound girl 10 months ago. My husband is fond of reminding me to embrace people's questions and be "the vegan at the table", the one who can put a face to veganism instead of feeling tired of the same questions I've had to answer a thousand times. I went to a nutritionist while I was pregnant and she said I was healthier than nearly all of her patients because I studied my diet so much more than they did!

    1. That is a fantastic story! I appreciate your husbands perspective. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thank you very much for sharing your story and great info. I'm sorry you had negative comments from ignorant people. I was vegetarian when pregnant and became vegan a few years later, but wished I had gone vegan sooner. Your daughter is gorgeous!