Plantbased diets during pregnancy
Vegetarian diets are considered adequate and healthy for use during pregnancy and lactation.However, I wouldn’t recommend to go fully vegan at this time. Learning to balance a vegan diet takes a moment, which may result in lack of balance and deficiencies at first. Pregnancy, and especially its beginning, is not a good time for that.
"Properly planned vegetarian diets, including vegan diets, are healthy, nutritionally appropriate and can be consumed with health benefits in the selection and treatment of various diseases. These diets are suitable for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes. "
It is a statement of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Please note the part “properly planned”
Any poorly balanced diet will be bad for you and your child.
How to make a diet balanced? It must contain all the necessary micro and macro components. The most important elements that should be taken into account already on the plantbased diet during pregnancy are:
Haematopoietic components: iron, vitamin B12 and folates. All 3 are extremely important during pregnancy..
Folic acid supplementation is mandatory, preferably 3 months before the planned pregnancy. Plantbased diet is rich in folates, but they are crucial in the initial development of the fetal nervous system, therefore it is necessary to supplement folic acid in the amount of 400 micrograms
Folic Acid 400 micrograms daily
The demand for iron increases significantly during pregnancy from 18 mg to as much as 27 mg. It is partly natural that during pregnancy there are lower amounts of hemoglobin, as blood volume is bigger.
Anemia is very dangerous during pregnancy, leading for example to higher risk of preterm labor and low birth weight, so it is advised to check concentration of hemoglobin, iron and ferritin in the blood. You will have the whole complete picture of iron stores, not only if there is enough at this moment what we can see in the results of hemoglobin, but also if your body has adequate stores by concentration of ferritin.
Rich sources of iron include legumes, nuts, seeds, pumpkin seeds
Iron 27 mg
Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the terminal ileum, and then the internal factor produced by the stomach's lining cell is needed to absorb it. It is a protein that combines with vitamin B12 and facilitates its absorption. The lack of internal factor occurs in Addison Biermer's disease, after gastrectomy and when using H2-receptor antagonists (antihistamines). In this situation, it becomes impossible to absorb vitamin B12 from food in gastrointestinal tract and you need muscle supplementation, which is prescribed by a doctor.
Other possible risks of vitamin B12 deficiency
-inflammatory bowel disease
Vitamin B12 supplementation is necessary for people on a vegetarian or vegan diet, especially during pregnancy.
Among pregnant vegetarians who have been on a vegetarian diet for over 3 years, lower levels of b12 and high homocysteine in comparison to non-vegetarians have been noticed.
Low B12 levels are detected in long-term vegetarians, but also in women who have been on a vegetarian diet for several months or have consumed small amounts of meat for a long time
B12 deficiency puts you at higher risk of preeclampsia and neural tube defects. For the mother, it means possible complications of the nervous system or macrocytic anemia.
B12 should be supplemented!
→ SUPPLEMENT B12 if you are on a vegetarian, vegan or almost vegetarian diet
25-100 µg per day
1000 µg twice a week
EPA and DHA, called essential unsaturated acids, are produced in the organizm through the conversion of ALA, which can be found in plants, e.g. in linseed oil and walnuts in large quantities. The conversion depends on many factors that we can’t control and are therefore it’s insufficient, it occurs only in a few percent. That is why DHA is recommended as a supplement during pregnancy, for every woman who do not eat fish in large quantities. Eating fish is very controversial, especially during pregnancy, which I write more about in the e-book.
Recommended daily supplementation
440 micrograms DHA
600 micrograms DHA (for woman who do not eat fish)
Why is this so important? Omega 3 is responsible for the proper development of the baby's brain, which occurs especially in the second half of pregnancy, however, it lasts another few years, which is why omega 3 supplementation is recommended both during breastfeeding and in later years.
Poorly balanced plantbased diets have a unfavorable ratio of omega 6 to 3, therefore, a high ratio of omega 6 to 3 has been observed in vegetarians. Omega 6 in excessive amount acts pro-inflammatory. They are found in large quantities in meat, but also in cereals and some seeds and oils. To maintain the right ratio of omega 6 to 3:
- do not base your diet only on cereal products
- choose walnuts, ground linseed, linseed oil, chia seeds
- do not use grape seed and sunflower oil, choose olive oil or rapeseed oil
- supplement omega 3 fatty acids
In the E-book you will find the entire chapter on the beneficial effects of omega 3 and the effects of their deficiency during pregnancy.
Calcium is one more element that should be taken into account during plantbased diets, especially during pregnancy. It is one of the micronutrients that your child literally sucks from you. It doesn't matter if you consume it in sufficient quantity, the child will get as much as he needs for proper development. What does this mean for you? You have a lot of calcium in your body - your bones. Thanks to this it is possible to give the baby enough, but for you it is very unfavorable and makes the risk of later osteoporosis higher.
The demand during pregnancy increases from already high level of 1000 mg to 1200 mg. To ensure them, choose rich sources of calcium, but it's worth thinking about supplementation after consulting a doctor or clinical dietitian.
Calcium supplementation during pregnancy is associated with a reduced risk of gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, neonatal mortality and premature delivery in developing countries.
Vegetable sources of calcium:
kale, mustard leaves, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, Chinese, turnip leaves,
soybean sprouts, tofu, calcium enriched with vegetable milk
almonds, beans, tahini, sesame, poppy seeds,
sunflower, almonds, nuts Brazilian,
beans, chickpeas, edamame, soybeans
Calcium absorption is affected by several factors, including the presence of vitamin D, or the ratio of calcium to phosphorus in the diet
The source of iodine is iodized salt, sea algae or supplements. Supplements for pregnant women usually already contain the right dose of iodine.
Vitamin D supplementation is recommended for pregnant women throughout the year.
Recommended amount may vary depending on the country.
It is best to consult your diet with a clinical dietitian to make sure that there is nothing missing.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 01 Jul 2009, 109 (7): 1266-1282, Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. Winston J C et al.
Dietary intake and tissue concentration of fatty acids in omnivore, vegetarian and diabetic pregnancy, Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids
Role of calcium supplementation during pregnancy in reducing risk of developing gestational hypertensive disorders: a meta-analysis of studies from developing countries, BMC Public Health volume 11, Article number: S18 (2011), Aamer Imdad
The Journal of Nutrition, volume 134, 12th edition, December 2004, pages 3319-3326,
The long-term vegetarian diet Ovo-Lacto impairs vitamin B-12 status in pregnant women
Nutrition during pregnancy
Everything you need to know about nutrition to ensure proper development of your baby.
How and what you eat during pregnancy is really important for your baby.
If you want to ensure the best envoirment for him or her to develop check out this material.
You'll get a comprehensive guide with both facts and practical tips on how to eat best for you and your baby.