Learning about pregnancy and how to take care of the child in their womb to ensure a successful delivery without any pregnancy complications or congenital disabilities is one question on any pregnant vegan’s mind. The question is how do they even get prepared for the pregnancy?
Well, preparation for pregnancy as a vegan is the same as a non-vegan. The only difference is the diet. Every other thing such as losing or gaining weight before pregnancy, exercising, monitoring your health with regular checkups are quite the same.
Who are vegans?
Most times, people mix up vegetarians and vegans. Though they have similar objectives, they have a significant difference which is: vegetarians may choose to consume eggs, dairy or any animal product sometimes, but a vegan is totally against consuming or using anything gotten from animal products.
Vegan practice is a bit deeper than that of vegetarians. It becomes a way of life, not just a change in diet. For a vegan, anything that has to do with exploitation or animal cruelty in the form of food, clothing or supplement is not encouraged.
It is not a surprise to know that they would never dream of consuming a gelatin supplement simply because they come from the bones of animals and their connective tissues. Products such as dairy milk, eggs, chicken, beef, honey, silk, wool, cosmetics, creams, soaps, leather and fur are not encouraged by the vegan society.
They may even avoid wine for the sole reason that wine production involves using egg whites, isinglass, gelatin, etc. as clarifying agents. All these is why you will find most vegans carefully reading food labels to ensure they are taking in the right thing.
Vegan diet- What do they eat?
Contrary to popular opinion, vegans still do have a wide variety of food to choose from. A typical vegan breakfast can include veggie no-cheese pizza with all the favorite vegetable toppings they wish; it could be toast with jelly, vegan pancakes, oatmeal with coffee, pineapple juice, tea, etc. Lunch could be chips and veggies; dinner could include bean burritos with salad and a dessert of coconut or almond milk.
There are a lot of things to eat such as macaroni, tofu, veggie sausage, veggie burger, tacos, Falafel, seitan, vegetarian baked beans, potatoes, tempeh, edamame, apple crisps and so on. You could click on Google search and check out vegan recipes.
Nutrients for Vegan expectant mothers
Folic acid is an important nutrient for a vegan woman during pregnancy. Folic acid, on the other hand, is important for all women irrespective of their lifestyle or feeding pattern. Folic acid reduces the chances of your baby to develop neural tube effects. It is necessary to take folic acid before getting pregnant as the neural tube forms in the first month of pregnancy and most women are not aware of their pregnancy during that time.
You can start by taking prenatal vitamins which contain the daily value of folic acid. You could also derive folic acid from food sources such as cereals, pasta, beans, leafy green vegetables, and citrus fruits. Although taking these foods may not be sufficient enough, that is why you need supplements to help you out. Please consult your doctor on the type of supplements you should be taking.
Vitamin B 12
Vegan needs to try as much as possible to get this nutrient as it helps in the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system. When you don’t get enough vitamin B 12 in your diet during pregnancy, your baby may develop cognitive impairments which could result in poor performance in academics and delayed development.
Since you cannot eat meat or dairy products, you will have to get it from other plant foods and supplements. Food sources to get vitamin B12 from include cereals, soymilk, rice milk, almond milk, tofu, tempeh, and nutritional yeast. Add a supplement to these food sources, and you are good to go.
Supplying the body with enough iron is a bit complicated for the vegan expectant mother as most of the plant-based food sources of iron otherwise known as non-heme cannot be easily absorbed by the body. And, deficiency in iron can lead to pregnancy complications.
To solve this problem, you will need to take two different plant food sources of iron at every meal and ensure to take a vitamin c food along with it for easy absorption by the body. For example, you can eat a cup of dark leafy green with a peanut butter sandwich and orange juice.
Food sources of iron include beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa, molasses, peanut butter, dark leafy green, lentils, brown rice, tofu and fortified cereals. While you can add vitamin c food sources such as kiwi, oranges, pineapple, strawberries, yellow bell pepper and Brussels sprouts.
It is also important to get enough protein intake during pregnancy. It is easy for a vegan not to meet up with the required recommendation since she avoids everything that has to do with animal products. For this reason, they need to be extra careful to meet up with the daily recommendation. Combining foods are necessary to get more protein out of the food source. It is extremely important for women expecting more than one baby. You will need about extra 0.11 pounds (50 g) per day1 added to the recommended 0.15 pounds (71 grams2 ) of a mother who is carrying just one fetus. Food sources of protein include whole grain, lentils, and beans. Your protein intake must contain the essential amino acid for it to be complete.
Calcium is very important in the development of the baby’s bones and teeth which is why it is important to have a significant amount of it during pregnancy. Food sources of calcium for vegan mothers include kale, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, bok choy, white beans, red beans, almond milk, soy milk, pinto, red beans, chard, mustard greens, dried figs, oranges, dates, collard green, brazil nuts, soybeans, apricots, blackstrap molasses, sesame seeds, okra and so on. Vegans will need to take calcium supplements as most of the plant’s calcium cannot be absorbed by the body.3
Omega -3 fatty acid which includes DHA and EPA is important for the development of the brain. Deficiency of omega- 3 includes premature labor, preeclampsia, low birth weight. Mothers who had enough omega- 3 nutrients during pregnancy, were able to give birth to babies with good vision and healthy brains. One major food source of omega 3 fatty acid is fish, but unfortunately, cannot be eaten by vegans. There are, however, other food sources that contain a healthy amount of omega 3 such as chia seeds and hemp seeds. You can also supplement with microalgae oil.
Zinc food sources for vegans include seeds, nuts, cereals, oatmeal and many more, but the problem is, most of the foods eaten by vegans contain a high amount of phytates which can interfere with the zinc food sources and make it difficult for the body to absorb the zinc nutrients. The only remedy to this problem is that vegans would have to look for a means to increase their intake of zinc which includes adding supplements.
Pregnant vegans should always ask their nutritionist about the serving size of food needed so as to meet their daily supply of nutrients. Also, a regular check-up for deficiencies is necessary.