Pregnancy is an amazing time in a woman’s life, and for most women we only get this experience for maybe a combined 2-3 years (if that) out of our average of 65 years of life! Unfortunately I hear so many women complaining about pregnancy – “I’m too fat and can’t fit into any of my clothes now”…”The baby has given me the worst stretch marks”…”I can’t wait until I’m not pregnant so I can (drink, smoke, go rollerblading, whatever)”. Sound familiar? I know I can whine a bit when I’m pregnant! But really, pregnancy is a time to cherish and to focus on the positive aspects of our lives.
A particular “positive aspect” I am referring to is that we are surrounded with an abundance of fruit and vegetables and have the ability to eat healthily and naturally. This is so important during pregnancy because you are not just eating for yourself, but also for that little miracle growing inside you. Eating vegan while pregnant is totally safe so don’t feel pressured by well-meaning midwives or doctors who tell you that you need to eat meat to get more protein and iron or whatever. And definitely do not feel like you need to be taking vitamin supplements during the whole 9 months or longer! I am convinced that the vegan diet is what humans are supposed to be eating – if this diet wasn’t natural, wasn’t our intended diet, I would not be continuing to eat the way I do. I have a theory, I like to call it the cavewoman theory – basically, I think to myself “What would a cavewoman do in my situation?” and I try to do what I think she would do. Or apply it to my modern life. I like to use this theory in all aspects of my life – parenting, food…well, that’s about all my life revolves around!
Now I just want to tell you a bit about my pregnancy histories. When I was pregnant with my first son, I was on a vegetarian diet (well…a vegetarian but claiming to be vegan, however liberal I was with cheese!) and I took a pregnancy multivitamin for most of my pregnancy. My son was born on his due date by natural vaginal delivery, weighing 3.92kg!
Three years later I was pregnant with my second son and things had changed a lot for me then – I was fully committed to the vegan diet and trying to live by my “cavewoman theory” as much as possible. I had previously spent a few months on the raw vegan diet also. For this pregnancy I was determined that I did not need to have prenatal vitamins, and I wanted to have a natural pregnancy and birth with as little intervention as possible. I found a beautiful midwife who supported me fully with my decisions, and my second son was born on his due date also, at home by waterbirth, weighing 4.1kg!
For each pregnancy I put on around 20kg (my second son is now 18 months old and I am weighing less than I did when I graduated from high school). So as you can see, the vegan diet did not deprive me or my children at all. However – if you do decide to go down the same path I went, you need to be well informed and educated and you need to eat well. During pregnancy, I personally don’t care about my weight – to me, it is the only time in my life I have an excuse to get a bit chubby and not have to worry about working the weight off (however light exercise during pregnancy is very beneficial). So please feel free to eat as much as you need :)
So back to the issue of vitamin supplements – I am not sure if there is a vegan pregnancy vitamin supplement even available, particularly here in Australia. I know a lot of the common brands at pharmacies contain gelatine, and there’s also the issue of the origin of the vitamins contained within – if they contain vitamin D3 for example, it is highly likely it is derived from lanolin (the grease from sheep’s wool…so not vegan). Ensure you have regular blood tests by your GP or midwife to monitor your iron levels and any other vitamin/mineral levels which may be of concern to you – for myself, I was a little low on protein, iron and vitamin D3. I took a liquid herbal iron supplement on and off throughout my pregnancy as well as making an effort to research which vegan foods are high in iron, how to boost iron absorption, and how much I should aim to consume each day – and then of course, implementing all that into my diet! Vitamin D3 however was a bit more complicated. I did try to get a bit of extra sun but that didn’t seem to help too much (I learned that some people can’t make their own D3 and so they do need to take supplements), so eventually I found a vegan vitamin D2 supplement (which our bodies then convert to vitamin D3). I also took a vitamin B12 supplement as I do not regularly consume fortified vegan products containing B12 – I have another “cavewoman theory” on vitamin B12. So while it is important not to succumb to the pressures of the medico-pharmaceutical monopoly, it is still important to monitor your body and give it what it needs – which is probably not a massive multivitamin.
I have a lot more to write about pregnancy and veganism, this is a subject which I am quite passionate about, so stay tuned for part 2. For now I leave you with an nutritious breakfast smoothie recipe :)
Blueberry Cinnamon Green (Purple) Smoothie
1 large handful baby kale leaves
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Enough water for desired consistency (around 1 cup)
1 tsp cacao nibs (optional – for sprinkling)
Wash the kale leaves, add all ingredients to blender, blend on high for 30 seconds or until it is no longer chunky. TIP: if you have a cheap-ish blender (like me) you may find it easier to blend your greens with the water first before adding the fruit.
Pour into a glass, sprinkle on some cacao nibs and add straw. Suck :)