Readers of the New York Times asked a question about being pregnant and a vegetarian in the ask well section of the newspaper. Their question was is it possible to remain completely healthy and have a healthy baby while being on a vegetarian diet or the more extreme vegan diet. A New York Times reporter did some research on the subject and asked some experts. Here is what she found.
All of the studies done on vegetarian mothers who were pregnant showed no increase in birth defects or health problems. This data comes from 22 studies that tracked vegetarian mothers. The observational studies only included healthy vegetarian mothers, so the researchers in the study said that more research is needed to in fact say conclusively whether vegetarian mothers have no increased risks of birth defects or health issues.
Doctors say that being on a plant based diet is acceptable for pregnant women if they take some precautions. When a woman is pregnant her need for the mineral, iron doubles. Iron is found in animals foods such as red meat and some fish. There are plant foods that are rich in iron, but they are not as readily absorbed. Doctors thus advise pregnant women to eat plenty of iron rich plant foods such as beans, peas and lentils as well as greens like spinach and collard greens. Taking a supplement is also a good idea.
Another vitamin that pregnant women may be lacking who are vegetarians is vitamin B 12. This nutrient is not contained in plant foods. There are some vegan foods that contain this vitamin such as soy products like tofu or fortified cereals. If you can’t stomach soy or fortified foods, then just take a supplement which includes B-vitamins and iron. There are special supplements designed for pregnant women and vegetarians that have the vitamins that vegans and pregnant women especially need. If vegetarian mothers ensure they get enough B-vitamins and iron than there should be no problems with staying healthy and having a healthy baby.