Are Vegan Diets Safe For Women Who Are Pregnant?
Scientific studies say vegan diets are safe for women who are pregnant. The most compelling evidence is this meta-analysis study, published in the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Volume 122, Issue 5, pages 623–633, April 2015, that analyzed 22 scholarly studies selected out of 262 full texts, which met the criteria for the study. 13 of the studies were used to analyze maternal outcomes an 9 were used to analyze dietary deficiencies.
It a nutshell, the study indicates that vegan and vegetarian diets are safe for women who are pregnant, and there is no need for these women to reconsider their diets. In the world of science the use randomized clinical trials would offer more concrete evidence in support this conclusion through testing specific factors, but the absence of these trials necessitated the use of a meta-analysis.
The studies found no increase in severe adverse outcomes or major malformations due the pregnant women consuming a vegan diet.
One of the analyzed studies did find an increase in hypospadias in pregnant women who were vegetarian. Hypospadias is a condition where the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis. Researchers acknowledged that further studies needed to be done before attributing the increased incidence of hypospadias to diet.
There were also several factors that were analyzed that are a concern for pregnant women.
That data showed the need for little or no concern for birthweight. Five studies showed the babies of vegan/vegetarian mothers had lower birth weight, but only one was statistically significant. Two of the studies showed babies with higher birthweight, with one being significant. Most babies born to vegan/vegetarian mothers had normal weight. Keeping this is in perspective, women who ate omnivore diets also had babies who were underweight as well as overweight.
Vitamin B12 and Iron Deficiency Not a Concern
Vitamin B12 and iron deficiencies play a role pre-eclampsia and major birth defects, so this was an area of concern for both pregnant women who are vegan and omnivores. The study showed no increase in severe outcomes for in either.
- Iron deficiency is not uncommon during pregnancy, whether the pregnant women eat a vegan or animal-based diet. Iron requirements are higher during pregnancy, so iron supplements are recommended during the second and third trimester for all pregnant women, but is not needed with a well rounded whole food plant-based diet.
- One concern with iron and a vegan diet is its iron is the non-heme form, compared to the heme form in animal-based foods. Non-heme iron is not absorbed as well as heme iron is, but this is not a concern as long as there is sufficient amount of vitamin C in the diet, which there is in a well rounded whole food plant-based diet. Vitamin causes the non-heme iron to be absorbed as well as heme iron.
- Fruits like apricots, mulberries, elderberries, and raspberries, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, legumes like black-eyed peas and green peas, nuts like almonds and pine nuts, seeds like sesame and flax, and grains like quinoa are high in iron. Dark leafy greens like kale, citrus fruits like lemons and limes, papayas, black currants, melons, bell peppers, plum tomatoes, and herbs like basil, cilantro, chives, parsley, and thyme, are high in Vitamin C.
Consuming sufficient quantities of vitamin B12 can be an issue for vegans in general, including vegan women who are pregnant. Vitamin B12 is not produced by plants, but is present on plants from the bacteria the makes vitamin B12. Animals don’t produce vitamin B12 either, but they consume plants that that have vitamin B12 on them, or they eat other animals that consume plants with vitamin B12.
Processing of foods reduces the amount of vitamin B12 on plants so it is recommended that vegans eat foods fortified with vitamin B12, like breakfast cereals or soy milk. There is no concern as long as vegan women who are pregnant consume fortified foods or are consuming enough raw fruits and vegetables to ensure they consume enough vitamin B12.
Duration of Pregnancy
The study found no significant statistical difference in duration of pregnancy between vegan and omnivore women.
The Choice of The Vegan Diet
Many women are choosing to adopt a whole food plant-based diet because it is healthier for them. Science shows that well rounded vegan diets protect against the number one killer in the U.S.; heart disease. Heart disease is rare or is non-existent in populations that eat diets centered around whole plant foods.
Whole food plant-based diets also help prevent and slow the proliferation cancers like breast cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, and colon cancer,.
 Vegan–vegetarian diets in pregnancy: danger or panacea? A systematic narrative review
 Fruits and Vegetables High in Iron
 Foods High in Iron
 Foods High in Vitamin C
 One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic
 Breast Cancer Survival and Lignan Intake
 Prostate vs. Plants
 Why Might Vegetarians Have Less HPV?
 Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay
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