How To Have A Healthy Vegan Pregnancy
If you have just found out that you are pregnant, or currently trying for a baby, and following a vegan or plant-based diet, you might be wondering if it is safe to continue to do so.
You might be thinking about if a vegan pregnancy is right for you, how a vegan diet will affect your baby or how to make sure you consume the essential nutrients in your diet when you’re pregnant and a vegan.
Make sure you read this post on how to have a safe and healthy vegan pregnancy, along with information on Pregnacare Gummies, our vegan pregnancy vitamins.
Firstly, What Is A Vegan Diet?
Vegans do not eat foods or use any products that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs. A vegan or plant-based diet contains only plants – including vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits – and foods made from plants. Veganism is becoming increasingly popular, and it’s estimated that 600,000 people follow a vegan diet, which is 1.16% of the population.
If you are a vegetarian, read our post on how to have a healthy vegetarian pregnancy.
Can You Be Vegan During Pregnancy?
Yes, you can be vegan during pregnancy as long as you safeguard your nutritional intake and eat a healthy, varied and balanced diet, with essential nutrients sourced from places other than meat and dairy.
Is A Vegan Diet Safe & Healthy For Pregnancy?
It is important for everyone to try and eat a varied and balanced diet during pregnancy, whether you are vegan or not. This will help provide nutrients for your own health and in turn the development, growth and health of your baby during pregnancy.
It is safe to continue eating a vegan diet during pregnancy as long as you eat a varied, balanced diet that contains the right building blocks such as protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates – sourced from places other than meat and dairy. Those following a vegetarian or vegan diet may need to safeguard their nutritional intake, as some nutrients are only available in limited food sources.
Pregnancy And Folic Acid
The UK Department of Health recommends that all women take a daily supplement containing 400μg of folic acid when trying for a baby, and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and potentially beyond, as this can help to reduce the risk of Neutral Tube Defects (NTDs) such as Spina Bifida, in your baby.
Supplemental folic acid intake increases maternal folate status†. Low maternal folate status is a risk factor in the development of neural tube defects in the developing foetus. Folic Acid is also beneficial beyond 12 weeks as it contributes to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy.
The UK government announced in September 2021 that folic acid will be added to UK white flour in the future (the new rules will exclude gluten-free and wholemeal flour). This is to help increase the amount of folic acid in maternal diets, as low folic acid status is a risk factor in the development of neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida. This will, however, not replace the need for mums-to-be to take a folic acid supplement, as the UK Department of Health continues to recommend that all women trying to conceive until the 12th week of pregnancy should take a daily supplement containing 400µg folic acid. You will still need to take a supplement containing folic acid as fortification is only to improve the folic acid contribution from the normal diet.
It is also recommended that vitamin B12 is taken with folic acid at this time as it works very closely with folic acid. Research suggests* that taking a daily supplement of at least 2.5 µg of B12 (the EU RDA) with your main meal, in addition to the recommended daily 400µg supplement of folic acid, may further reduce the risk of NTD. B12 is mainly found in animal and dairy produce, so B12 supplementation is especially important for women following vegetarian or vegan diets.
†The beneficial effect is obtained with a supplemental folic acid daily intake of 400µg for at least one month before and up to three months after conception.
* Addition of Vitamin B12 to folic acid supplements to optimise the prevention of Spina Bifida and other Neural Tube Defects, Professor John M. Scott, Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland
How To Eat Vegan During Pregnancy
Important Vitamins And Minerals For During Pregnancy If You’re Following A Plant-based Diet:
In addition to eating a balanced, varied and healthy diet during pregnancy, vegan mums-to-be need to make sure they get enough iron and vitamin B12, which are mainly found in meat and fish, along with vitamin D and calcium.
Getting Iron During A Vegan Pregnancy
Almost half (49%) of adults don’t know that a lack of iron can lead to anaemia, according to the HFMA’s Health of the Nation survey in 2019. If you are following a vegan diet throughout pregnancy, you need to make sure you consume enough iron. Good sources of iron for vegans include:
- Wholemeal Bread
- Dark Green Vegetables, Including Spinach & Broccoli
- Pulses And Legumes
- Fortified Breakfast Cereals (Look for ones with added iron)
- Dried Fruit, Such As Apricots.
Getting Vitamin B12 During A Vegan Pregnancy
Sources of vitamin B12 for vegans are limited, which is why you may consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement. Natural sources of vitamin B12 for vegans are:
- Fortified Breakfast Cereals (Lower sugar options where possible)
- Fortified Unsweetened Soya Drinks
- Marmite Or Other Yeast Extract Products
Vitamin D In Your Diet During A Vegan Pregnancy
All adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, are advised by Public Health England to consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.
We source vitamin D from sunlight, but it is also contained in foods fortified with vitamin D, including some breakfast cereals and fat spreads. However, as vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods, it is difficult to get enough from foods that naturally contain vitamin D and fortified foods alone.
Getting Calcium During A Vegan Pregnancy
Another thing you need to look out for if you’re pregnant and a vegan is getting enough calcium, as non-vegans get most of their calcium from dairy foods like milk, cheese and butter.
Good sources of calcium for vegans include:
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables Including Spinach And Kale
- Fortified Unsweetened Soya, Rice And Oat Drinks
- Brown And White Bread
- Calcium-Set Tofu
- Sesame Seeds And Tahini
- Dried Fruit
Do I Need To Tell My Doctor Or Midwife That I’m Vegan?
Your midwife will ask about your diet at your booking-in appointment. If this question doesn’t come up, then it would be helpful to mention it to them so they can answer any questions you might have and help discuss your dietary needs and how you can help support your body and baby during this time.
Which Vegan Pregnancy Vitamins Should I Take?
If you’re pregnant and currently following a vegan diet, you might be wondering if there are any vegan Pregnacare supplements. Pregnacare Gummies, the UK’s first ever comprehensive gummy supplement to help support pregnancy, are vegan pregnancy vitamins and vegan prenatal vitamins suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Pregnacare Gummies contains 17 vitamins and minerals to support pregnancy and safeguard dietary requirements, from conception and throughout pregnancy, including 400 µg folic acid and 10µg vitamin D; the exact levels recommended by the UK Department of Health for all pregnant women, as well as the following:
- Folic acid, which contributes to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy
- Vitamin B12 which plays a role in the process of cell division and contributes to normal red blood cell formation
- Vitamin D, which contributes to normal absorption of calcium and is needed for normal growth and development of bone.
- Iodine, which contributes to normal cognitive function
- Iron, which contributes to normal energy release, transportation of oxygen, formation of red blood cells. It also has a role in cell division
- B vitamins, including vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6 which contribute to normal red blood cell formation
- Zinc, which plays a role in cell division.
Pregnacare Gummies are designed to safeguard the diet throughout pregnancy, come in a delicious natural strawberry flavour chewable gummy format.