I’m now three months postpartum. After birthing my second (and last) human, I feel somewhat credible enough to share my insight with other moms out there planning to have a vegan pregnancy. This also means that I now have a toddler and an infant, which warrants another blog post entirely, and that writing in complete thoughts is a valiant win for this tired mother.
Here are 5 tips to help make your vegan pregnancy as awesome as possible, whether this is your first time or fifth go around.
Don’t get scared off by media and internet hype.
By now, we should all know not to get all of our news from the news, per se – at least, not without questioning it a bit deeper. The media loves to run with social anomalies about vegan children dying from malnutrition and veganism being banned overseas, making following this lifestyle sound like the most asinine and dangerous decision parents could possibly make (for the record, don’t try and sustain your kid on almond milk and raisins and you should have a shot at success here). Instances like these, though real, are preventable. They are also not the norm. Raising a vegan family in a safe and healthy way is absolutely possible, so don’t let fear of what’s ahead deter you from pursuing the plant-based pregnancy you’re after. If you’re concerned about malnourishing your child before they are even conceived, I can pretty confidently say that you’re more conscientious than most people and at extremely low risk for that actually happening as a result.
The other source of all information, the internet, is a really big place. Unfortunately, in today’s world of craftily designed websites, self-granted professional titles, and overused citations, it’s not always easy to find the reputable information we’re seeking. If you read a headline that makes you question your decision to have a vegan pregnancy, look for more research behind the claim being made. Was it written by someone with reliable knowledge and experience? Do they have convincing evidence to back up what they’re saying? Do a gut check, and move on.
Find a tribe of like-minded moms, in real life, virtual life, or both.
Seriously, you’re going to need some peeps. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that your current mom circle is great, but there’s nothing quite as reassuring as having girlfriends who have gone through pregnancy fully fueled on plants. Not only will they be able to share ideas for gagging down your leafy greens, but they can also give great tips for how to answer veg-skeptical outsiders who question your judgment.
Luckily, there are also a growing number of resources available to vegan parents and parents-to-be today, including large online communities, podcasts, books, and local social meetups. Check them out, and find a place where you feel comfortable asking questions and exchanging advice with others going through the exact same things.
Pay attention to nutrition.
Trust me, just because you’re vegan doesn’t make you immune to junk food cravings, nausea, or the unsuppressable appetite that women often experience during pregnancy. It also doesn’t give you a free pass to take “eating for two” as literally as it sounds, just because you eat more beans and quinoa than most of the population. Keep good nutrition at the top of your priority list during these nine (ahem, ten) months, especially when the first trimester is over and you’re hopefully not spending quite so much time trying to mentally push through the shitstorm that is morning (all-day) sickness.
Getting the essential micronutrients is really important here, especially as a vegan. Choose a quality prenatal that has adequate vitamins B12 and D, iron, iodine, and zinc. If possible, find one that incorporates folate from a whole food source rather than synthetic folic acid. Look for a microalgae-derived omega 3 supplement to take along with it for a healthy dose of DHA and EPA for little one’s developing brain. Eat a wide variety of plants on the daily that offer these nutrients, too. Smoothies, muffins, pasta and pizza sauces make excellent vehicles for things like kale and ground flax seed when making a full-blown meal is simply out of the question. And if you’re craving donuts, have some. Perhaps enjoy them alongside a tall glass of water and something resembling a fruit or vegetable.
If you’re concerned at all about your nutrient levels, bring it up with your doctor or midwife. They can order a simple blood test to see whether additional supplementation or dietary changes are needed.
Prioritize things that you want to be #1, not what others tell you should be #1.
Depending on the person, pregnancy can simultaneously be one of the most beautiful and horrible times of life. I would venture to say that pretty much everyone, though, would agree that this is one time when you will receive more advice from others than you ever would have thought to ask for. Between your great aunt Nellie telling you to sleep only on your left side in order to grow a boy and your MLM friend trying to sell you oils to make your feet lavendery at half price, don’t downgrade your own values in the mix. If you want to exercise every day or once a week, do that. If you want to cook meals strictly at home or send your spouse to pick up a pizza, do that. If you want to cloth diaper, disposable diaper, formula feed, breastfeed, co-sleep or sleep train, do that. Take the advice you want graciously, leave the advice you don’t, and do your thing. In the end, you’re going to have a new baby and you’re going to want to be able to reflect on your pregnancy feeling like you did it in the best way you knew how.
Be kind to animals and the planet, sure – but also, be kind to yourself.
You’re vegan so of course saving everyone else is at the forefront of your mind, but please remember to take care of yourself, too, especially now. Whether this means carving out time to literally sink into the couch and watch four hours of This Is Us or joining the local craft club and learning what the hell a decoupage is, make sure there are some blank spaces on your calendar so you can enjoy the very last moments of true alone time you’ll have for a long time. Soon enough, you won’t be able to pee or get dressed by yourself anymore, so bask in these simple times of peace and take care of your (current) number one. P.S. the laundry can wait.
Pregnancy is, indeed, a vastly different journey for every mom and, when you choose to do it vegan, you’re choosing to do it in a way that most people around you will never understand. Purposely doing things differently from the majority can feel isolating, will make you question yourself, and comes with a lot more challenges. It will also allow you to become a leader, experience new things, and teach others what you know. Not to mention give your vegan child a great head start in life. Hang in there, fellow mama – if this is the decision you made, then it’s the right one for you… and it will be a success!