There’s so much good stuff to say about veganism and pregnancy that it’s hard to know where to start.
Unfortunately most people, most doctors even, have an antiquated view of general nutrition (oh, government-sponsored-food-pyramid, *sigh*), let alone an understanding of veganism! This can lead to all sorts of confusion — from the unsolicited advice of semi-strangers to the genuine, albeit unwarranted, worry of friends and family. The truth is that nutrition should be a top priority for every soon-to-be-mama, whether vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore.
When I became pregnant I never a questioned whether or not to remain vegan. I’m a scientist by training, neurotic by nature, and a fiercely fact-driven person. Self-diagnosed with Hyper Productivity Disorder™, I’d done enough research to rest assured that I was making a safe – and in fact an optimal – decision for myself and my baby.
As vegans, our diets are under additional scrutiny. It can be frustrating, but try to stay strong – and keep smiling. Challenge your detractor to provide even one single case of a well nourished veg*n mother birthing a baby who was unhealthy due to dietary deficiency. Then, gently remind them that the American Dietetic Association’s position paper on veganism states that,
“. . . appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life-cycle including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence and for athletes.”
If the ADA isn’t enough to quiet their concerns, then how about the United Nations? The UN certainly isn’t the type of institution to give out unsound medical advice. But in 2006, a comprehensive UN report unequivocally advocated a global shift away from animal products.
And finally, just for fun you can always point them towards this adorable and delightful profile of thriving tiny vegans!
My approach to pregnancy paralleled my outlook on life: insistent optimism. Kill them with kindness. You catch more flies with hon . . . er . . . with agave than with vinegar. I countered contrarians with a short smart response and my biggest grin.
“Oh no worries, vegan diets are totally safe (at every life stage) . . . Yes, I get plenty of protein – sometimes more than I’d like! . . . No you don’t need to eat fish, I take an omega-3 supplement that includes both EPA and DHA . . . Actually, many of the micronutrients important for pregnancy are more easily obtained through plants . . . I get my calcium from greens, just the same as the cows do!”
And so it went.
The best education is in experience and leading by example. So log a little research, know what nutrients you need, make sure your meals are balanced and all your bases are covered. Then, relax and enjoy your vegan pregnancy with confidence! When someone questions where your baby is getting its calcium, just ask them where their baby is getting its boron. Okay okay, don’t really do that – no need to be rude.
The point is, don’t let anyone guilt or scare you into doubting your vegan choice. Babies are built of more than just vitamins and minerals. Consideration and compassion and thoughtfulness are all key components in producing a little person. And veg mama, those are things that you’ve got growing, in spades!
For more information on vegan pregnancy and parenting, check out these awesome resources: