Can a Vegan Diet Sustain a Pregnancy?

Health & Wellness on 02.28.11
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Merriam-Webster tells us a vegan is a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products and abstains from using any animal products. In Hollywood, vegan is just another term for skinny actress. I kid, but it is a popular dietary choice among actors and actresses alike to help keep the pounds at bay. Alanis Morissette, Natalie Portman and Alicia Silverstone are all vegans. They also are pregnant or brand new mommies.

In addition to helping you achieve a lithe frame, a vegan diet could possibly cut your risk of heart disease, stroke, and maybe even cancer, too. But it does come with some risks. If you don't supplement your diet with the nutrients you're missing out on, you could do some serious damage. Osteoporosis and anemia are common in vegans and vegetarians that don't vary their diet and get the required nutrients.

So, are all bets off when a vegan becomes pregnant? Will she have to give up her lifestyle and introduce meat and dairy back into her diet? While the simple answer is no, it's a lot more complicated than that. It's not like you can just up your food intake and bam, your baby is thriving. You have to eat the right foods to give you and your baby what you need. While that's true of any pregnancy, it's just a little harder to find foods that will work for a vegan. Of course, it's recommended that you get all of your nutrients from food, but that's not always a reality. If you can't find it in food, then you've got to pop some pills (the legal, nutritionally-packed kind that is). Calcium, iron, and B-12 are some of the most common concerns, and all of those can be picked up at your local drugstore or pharmacy.

A low birth weight is one side effect that can result from a poor diet. Your baby could also suffer from developmental problems (both physical and neurological), bone deficiencies, and anemia. It doesn't stop with childbirth, either. If you choose to breastfeed, you need to make sure you get the proper nutrition so you can pass it on to your baby.

If you're a vegan and you're thinking about having a baby, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist. They can help you develop a diet that's right for you and your lifestyle. You certainly don't have to give up your vegan ways, but you will most likely need to adopt some new habits. But then again, who doesn't?

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