My Mostly Vegan Pregnancy
June 30, 2013 § 1 Comment
That little blue plus sign – what a magical thing! Our whole world changed in an instant as we waited for it to appear and confirm our hunch that we were expecting. We didn’t have to wait long – I was “very” pregnant as the Doctor later told me – so when I did take the test, that little blue plus sign showed up immediately. Literally, there was no waiting. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Finding out we were pregnant was the most wonderful moment in my life up until that point.
I reveled in that joy all of ten minutes before going into panic mode. I tend to be a worry wart – something I hope to not pass along to my daughter! The questions came pouring in. Would I make a good mother? How was I going to juggle work and baby? What kind of pregnancy would I have? And so on…
Then there was the question of growing this baby – ensuring she got all the nutrients needed to develop into a perfect little being. I’d been following a mostly vegan diet for about a year at that point. I felt healthier than ever – despite many scoffs and concerns. But could I stay vegan and be pregnant? Was it possible to grow a perfectly healthy baby and cling to this new lifestyle I now valued so much? I was prepared to do my research and give it my best effort. I’m happy to report that despite the many eye rolls, concerns, and some just flat out rude remarks, I came to find the answer was not only yes it was possible to be vegan and pregnant, but I believe it to be a wonderful way to experience pregnancy with full vitality.
That being said, I should preface that while I strive to be vegan, I am not 100% vegan. I occasionally eat fish (maybe once a month) and sometimes dairy/egg products (in baked goods when eating out). Additionally I took a fish based DHA supplement at the end of my pregnancy – more on that later. So, I realize I can’t claim to have had a 100% vegan pregnancy – but this is my experience and I wanted to share in hopes that it helps someone like me out there looking for information. I was desperate for information those first few weeks. Silly me, I thought you find out your pregnant and you go to see the OBGYN. But turns out they won’t see you until about 8 weeks – so I had a few weeks to kill. I spent those weeks engrossed in online research. I’d never loved google so much. I read all kinds of blogs and forums on being vegan and pregnant – and was surprised at the lack of information out there. So this is my way of giving back – sharing my experience in hopes that it helps someone.
I did not have an OBGYN when we got pregnant. So first thing was to find a provider – I wasn’t sure if I wanted an OB or a midwife so I did my homework and looked around. I got a few recommendations and set out to meet them. I was concerned about what the provider was going to think of my vegan lifestyle and if I’d find someone to support me. In the end, I chose a midwife who was extremely supportive of my vegan pregnancy and encouraged me every step of the way.
I’d already been tracking my progress in this new lifestyle before getting pregnant. I had my blood drawn several times to check that I was not lacking in any area – which I wasn’t. So, I knew I was starting off on the right foot. By the time I went to see my midwife, the morning sickness had really sunk in. I had read somewhere that vegans do not get morning sickness – but I was not so fortunate – that morning sickness is actually the body ridding itself of what it doesn’t need. For me, this was totally untrue! I had absolutely no non-vegan products my first trimester and I was so nauseous all the time! There was nothing “morning” about it.
I existed solely on bagels and bread for about six weeks. I would literally go pick up a dozen bagels every few days and eat them for every single meal. I couldn’t stomach anything, couldn’t stand the slightest smell in the kitchen resulting in us eating out at every single meal, and couldn’t swallow a pre-natal vitamin without gagging. To make matters worse I was losing weight. I was really worried I was off to a bad start but my midwife assured me to just eat whatever I could keep down and not to worry too much about it. The first trimester was all about survival – just get through it! I had no choice but to trust her.
Everyone kept saying the morning sickness would pass at 12 weeks. For me, it didn’t pass until around week 18. Slowly but surely, I was able to introduce a few more foods. One week I couldn’t get enough salad – but all I wanted was lettuce and cucumber with dressing. Then there were two weeks where all I wanted was a bagel sandwich with hummus and veggies. Again my midwife assured me, whatever sounded good to just eat it. I wondered if I would crave non-vegan food as I heard this was common. I did have one week where I thought I would lose it if I didn’t get a cheese pizza. All I could think about was an ooey gooey cheesey pizza. Day and night I was obsessed with cheese pizza. Everyone told me to go for it, that I deserved it. But, I decided not to cave. The week passed and I never craved a cheese pizza again.
By about week 20, I started to feel really good. I had found my appetite and was able to eat all kinds of fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. I did my best to eat a varied diet. I still wasn’t able to swallow my prenatal vitamins very often so all nutrition was coming from food. I was beyond that awful first trimester exhaustion, finally getting into prenatal yoga, and overall feeling very good. I started getting regular massages and chiropractic adjustments which I know contributed to my overall feeling of well being and greatly reduced any back and hip pain I was experiencing. I had finally found my pregnancy “glow” which had been absent with all that morning sickness and I was just so happy!
Before I knew it, we were in the third trimester. I was finally able to swallow vitamins so I did supplement in the last trimester with raw vegan prenatal vitamins and a fish based DHA. There’s a lot of mixed information about DHA and while there is a plant based version, that is one area that I just didn’t feel 100% confident so I chose the animal version.
I was finally getting big but everyone kept commenting on my figure and how great I looked. More importantly, I felt great! I was almost entirely off of caffeine, not too tired, still doing yoga, never had any swelling and overall just felt amazing. I was working towards a natural birth with a hypnobirthing instructor and feeling very confident. I was eating these frosties every day and anything else that would get my body ready for the biggest job of its life!
This incredible feeling lasted up until the very last day. I’d heard from so many moms that being pregnant was so hard – that at the end you’re just ready to get that baby out! But for me that just wasn’t the case. Even though I couldn’t wait to meet my little girl – I really didn’t mind being pregnant at all. She did come 11 days early, but I was in no rush to get her out!
All in all, I gained a healthy 25 pounds. I’m confident my mostly vegan diet kept me in optimum shape so that I could enjoy my pregnancy. Many people would comment on how small I was and it worried me a little bit – but my midwife assured me how great both my little girl and I were doing. With each checkup, my faith in a plant based diet was renewed. I never had a single issue throughout my pregnancy. My stats were always perfect. With every checkup my midwife would comment on how well I was doing and how healthy I was.
I was so confident that just as I had a beautiful, easy pregnancy, I would have a beautiful, easy labor. I felt amazing up until the last day and was blessed with a quick, natural birth. While I did have a few surprises in the labor that didn’t go as planned (which I may or may not share at a later date), I was able to deliver her naturally and without medication just as I had intended.
Most importantly – my beautiful baby girl was born perfectly healthy. She was a tiny little thing at 5 lbs. 12 oz. I was quite surprised as I am not petite by any means. She was skinny and long at 19 inches. They told me in the hospital that I may need to supplement since she was so small – but I was pleased that didn’t happen. She latched immediately and ate like a champ. Fortunately, supply has been no issue. She just kept eating and gaining weight to everyone’s delight. Three months later she has more than doubled in size, exceeding the recommended weight gain.
In the hospital the nurses kept commenting on how alert and strong she was. People seemed to be genuinely impressed. And at every doctors appointment since, people are always commenting on how strong and alert she is.
In the end, I’m happy to say I had a wonderful pregnancy. Being in optimum health throughout my pregnancy not only allowed me to grow and deliver a perfectly healthy baby – but we got to enjoy every minute of it too. I was adamant about a drug-free delivery and was blessed to be able to pull through despite some difficulties. And, nock on wood, breast-feeding and supply has not been an issue. While I can’t say with 100% confidence this is all due to eating a mostly vegan diet, I’m confident it did positively impact both me and my baby. And should I get pregnant again, I’ll remain vegan and be confident that it will produce another healthy baby just as this pregnancy did.