Pregnancy is an important stage in the life of a woman that needs great care. The need for nutrients will be extremely high during this period, as it is essential for the growth of the fetus.
A lot of women switch to vegan diets during pregnancy periods, as it is considered as one of the healthiest diets. Eating plenty of plant-based foods during this period will help to get a wide range of nutrients that are essential for protecting the health of both the mother and the fetus.
However, there is still a lot of concerns among people about the safety of vegan diets during pregnancy. Hence, through this article, we analyze whether vegan diets are suitable for pregnant women or not.
Vegan Diet And Pregnancy
Vegan diets have been criticized for the lack of certain nutrients and they are considered inappropriate for sensitive stages of life including pregnancy.
This is because vegan diets tend to be low in certain nutrients that are required by our body, like vitamin B12, iron, omega-3 fats, calcium, zinc, and iodine – all of which are crucial during pregnancy.
Low intake of such nutrients can lead to nutrient deficiencies thereby resulting in various health problems including poor infant and mother health, pregnancy complications, etc.
For example, insufficient intake of vitamin B12 during pregnancy periods can increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, low birth weight, or birth defects.
However, studies suggest that a well-planned vegan diet is perfectly capable of providing all the nutrients that are required during pregnancy periods. These diets are as healthy as conventional diets that include eggs, meat, and dairy. So women who follow vegan diets are at no higher risk of complications during pregnancy than women who follow conventional diets.
In fact, women who follow vegan diets are at low risk of postpartum depression, infant and maternal mortality, and cesarean section delivery.
Many nutrition societies around the world have issued various official statements regarding the safety of vegan diets for different stages of life including pregnancy.
A well-planned vegan diet that includes various nutrient-rich foods, fortified foods, and supplements can help to deliver all the nutrients that are necessary during pregnancy.
Potential Benefits Of Vegan Diets During Pregnancy
Vegan diets that are planned appropriately will be able to provide a lot of benefits for the mother and baby. For instance, plant-based foods are a great source of fiber and they are naturally low in sugar and fat. These attributes may be beneficial for safeguarding against gestational diabetes, which is the increase in blood sugar levels during pregnancy.
In addition to this, the high fiber intake associated with plant-based diets can provide protection from preeclampsia, which is a complication that is formed as a result of increased blood pressure during the period of pregnancy.
Vegan diets might even help to prevent the damage of DNA and reduce the risk of certain developmental issues of the baby. However, further research and studies are needed in this field. Be aware that these benefits are only applicable to well-planned vegan diets that can provide sufficient amounts of all the essential nutrients.
Hence, it is important for women who follow vegan diets during pregnancy to seek the advice of a dietician specialized in plant-based diets. It can help ensure that you get all the nutrients that are necessary for the growth of the fetus.
Common Concerns About Plant-Based Diets
While a well-balanced vegan diet is perfectly acceptable during pregnancy, a poorly planned one carries many risks. As vegan diets exclude all animal products, there can be an increased risk of deficiency of certain nutrients. This may be harmful to both mother and fetus.
Some of the common nutrient deficiencies associated with vegan diets include:
Vitamin B12: Vegan diets are usually devoid of this vitamin, as it does not naturally occur in plant-based foods. They are commonly present in animal products. But for helping vegans get this nutrient, some foods that are fortified with vitamin B12 are available including some breakfast cereals, soy milk, etc.
The deficiency of vitamin B12 during pregnancy can lead to a large number of problems including the increased risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, gestational diabetes, and malformations.
Vitamin D: Many women suffer from vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy irrespective of the diets they follow. Insufficient levels of this nutrient might result in various problems like low birth weight, preeclampsia, miscarriage, etc. Hence, it is important for you to include enough foods that are rich in vitamin D in your plant-based recipes. Also, sun exposure can help your body to produce vitamin D.
Other important nutrients that you have to definitely get from your plant-based diets during pregnancy include iodine, calcium, omega-3 fats, zinc, protein, and choline. So make sure that you include a variety of nutrient-rich foods in your everyday diet.
Following plant-based diets during pregnancy is acceptable, as well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets are capable of providing all the nutrients that are essential during this period. But if you are planning to follow plant-based diets during pregnancy, make sure to seek the help of a dietician for ensuring that you get all the important nutrients.