Best Vegan Pregnancy Supplements
As veganism grows increasingly popular, more women choose to eat this way — including during pregnancy. Vegan diets exclude all animal products and typically emphasize whole foods like vegetables and legumes.
This eating pattern is linked to various health benefits, including a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Yet, some worry that a vegan diet may cause nutrient deficiencies that could be especially dangerous for pregnant women or their babies.
Historically, vegan diets have been criticized for lacking nutrients and being inappropriate for more sensitive life stages, such as pregnancy.
This is because they are naturally low in nutrients like vitamin B12, omega-3 fats, iron, iodine, calcium, and zinc, which are especially important during pregnancy.
A low intake of these nutrients can result in nutrient deficiencies, pregnancy complications, and poor mother and infant health.
For instance, insufficient vitamin B12 levels during pregnancy may raise your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, preterm birth, or birth defects.
That said, a vegan diet that provides adequate nutrients appears to be just as healthy as a conventional diet that includes meat, eggs, and dairy.
For instance, research suggests that women who follow a vegan diet are generally at no greater risk of pregnancy complications than women who don’t.
Vegan women may have a lower risk of postpartum depression, cesarean section (C-section) delivery, and maternal or infant mortality.
As a result, several nutrition societies worldwide, including the U.S. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, have issued official statements backing the safety of vegan diets for all stages of life, including pregnancy.
Experts agree that well-planned vegan diets require careful monitoring of nutrient intake, focusing on diverse and nutrient-rich foods, and using fortified foods or supplements.
Appropriately planned vegan diets may benefit both you and your baby. For example, plant-based diets are rich in fibre but low in sugar and fat.
These attributes may safeguard against gestational diabetes — or high blood sugar levels during pregnancy — and excess weight gain during pregnancy.
Moreover, the vegan diet’s high veggie and fiber content may guard against preeclampsia — a complication caused by a rise in blood pressure during pregnancy.
Vegan Pregnancy Concerns
However, veganism has evolved in recent years. There are now many vegan pregnancy supplements that can help ensure pregnant women have a healthy diet and meet their nutrient needs.
One way to prevent nutrient deficiencies is by taking a daily prenatal vitamin. Another concern with veganism is the lack of vitamin B12, which is found in animal products like eggs and dairy.
Vegans typically rely on fortified plant-based foods for vitamin B12 intake. But these foods don't contain all the nutrients necessary for a healthy diet.
Other concerns include the potential for iron deficiency anemia and iodine deficiency. But these concerns are easily avoidable by eating iron-rich foods like beans, dark leafy greens, and whole grains; incorporating iodized salt into your diet; or taking vegan prenatal supplements that provide extra iron and iodine.
So, while it's true that some people worry about pregnancy complications related to veganism, the vast majority of studies show no significant differences in outcomes between pregnant women who eat animal products or follow other dietary patterns during pregnancy.
The Truth About Vegan Pregnancy Supplements
There is no evidence that vegan pregnancies are more likely to have complications or lead to poor maternal or infant health. Studies show that a vegan diet benefits expecting mothers and their babies.
Studies have found that vegan diets during pregnancy reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, and some studies also suggest that vegan diets help reduce the risk of miscarriage. Vegan diets are also linked to lower rates of lactose intolerance in children.
Additionally, veganism has increased birth weight, decreased the incidence of low-birth-weight infants, and even lowered the risk of cesarean sections among mothers.
Studies show that vegan women are less likely than omnivore women to give birth prematurely and experience postpartum depression.
Nutrients That Vegans Need More Of During Pregnancy
Vegans must get enough calcium, iron, iodine, and zinc during pregnancy. All of these nutrients are needed for a healthy pregnancy.
Calcium is essential for strong bones in the baby and for maintaining a healthy milk supply after giving birth.
Eating plenty of calcium-rich foods like leafy green vegetables, tofu made with calcium sulphate or calcium chloride, or fortified orange juice or cereals is important.
Iron is a key component in red blood cells and helps with energy production. Pregnant women should get more iron from food sources like beans, lentils, and dark green vegetables because they are high in iron.
Iodine is needed for proper thyroid function throughout a pregnancy and supports fetal brain development. Pregnant women may be especially vulnerable to iodine deficiency because plant sources tend to have lower amounts of this mineral than animal sources.
Be sure to include iodized salt in your diet and seaweed like kelp that has been processed into table salt (iodized salt).
Zinc is necessary for normal growth and development during pregnancy, including healthy fetal brain development. Zinc can be found in many vegan foods like grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruit juices with added vitamin C, fortified cereals, and bread.
One of the most popular vegan pregnancy supplements is folate. It’s important to note that folate is not a substitute for vitamin B12, which can be a concern.
Folate is only one of many important nutrients that pregnant women need to ensure their and their babies’ health and well-being.
This supplement may help lower the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, while vitamin B12 has decreased the risk of birth defects.
Pregnancy is not the only time when nutrient deficiencies are dangerous. Even in non-pregnant adults, low vitamin D levels have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
Pregnant women should monitor their intake of nutrients like vitamin D and calcium throughout their pregnancy.
In particular, pregnant women should get more than 400 international units (IU) per day of calcium from food or supplements (source).
Vitamin D can also help prevent complications during pregnancy by strengthening bones and teeth in both mom and baby (source).
So, what can you do? The best way to make sure you are getting enough nutrients on a vegan diet is by eating a healthy variety of whole foods every day — including dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, TVP products made with soybeans, dried fruit and vegetables like apricots and figs.
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is a nutrient required for fetal development. Newborns need it to develop their nervous system. Another way vegetarians and vegans can get the vitamin is by taking supplements. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in some non-animal sources like algae.
One of the most prevalent nutrients to worry about during pregnancy is vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus and maintains bone health, muscle strength, and a healthy immune system. It’s also important for fetal development. Vitamin D is naturally present in some foods, but such sources are limited.
A vegan diet typically doesn’t include fortified foods like milk or eggs — as these are typically derived from an animal source — so a vegan diet may result in low levels of vitamin D intake.
There are many ways to increase your intake of vitamin D during pregnancy. However, most people focus on getting adequate sun exposure and recommend pregnant women take a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 IU of vitamin D per day (or 10,000 IU for those who don't get enough sunlight).
A vegan diet can be healthy and nutritious if it's planned well. If you're pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk with your doctor about ensuring that a vegan diet meets your nutritional needs while pregnant.
Even though vegan diets typically feature more vitamin D-rich foods like mushrooms, fortified soy milk, and fortified orange juice, some people worry about a vegan pregnancy.
Vitamin D is important for fetal growth and development, as it helps your baby develop healthy bones and teeth. It also plays an important role in brain development, affecting child health and intelligence.
Fortunately, vegan diets are rich in vitamin D-like compounds called provitamin A carotenoids. These nutrients include beta-carotenoids (found in colourful fruits and vegetables), lycopene (found in tomatoes), lutein (found in green leafy vegetables), and zeaxanthin (found in kale).
They can provide all the vitamin D your body needs when pregnant without the side effects of getting too much or too little of this essential nutrient.
If you're a vegan during pregnancy and concerned about nutritional deficiencies or potential risks to your unborn child, talk with your doctor, or other trusted healthcare professional about appropriate sources of vitamin D during pregnancy.
Some vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and chia seeds. Most people get enough omega-3 through their diet in the United States.
Moreover, pregnant women often consume more omega-3 fats than the American Dietetic Association recommends to improve fetal development.
Additionally, omega-3s may help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
As vegans, we can get our Omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts, seaweed and algae, flaxseeds, hempseeds, edamame, chia seeds and kidney beans.
In addition to meeting nutrient needs during pregnancy with vegan diets, they contribute to healthier diets for children.
Iodine is an essential mineral that helps the thyroid produce hormones regulating metabolism, mood, and cognitive function. It's needed for proper fetal growth, brain development, and nerve transmission.
The main source of iodine in the average American diet is seafood. The nutrients in vegan diets can vary based on what foods you choose.
Some plant-based sources of iodine include iodized salt, kelp, soy milk fortified with iodine, and seaweed. This can make it difficult to follow a vegan pregnancy diet appropriately — even if you are a vegetarian or vegan.
Pregnant women must ensure they get enough iodine during their pregnancy because it can contribute to developmental issues like autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disability (ID), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
For example, in one study of mothers whose children were later diagnosed with ASD or ID, about half received at least some supplementation of iodine during pregnancy.
Although iodine is not a required nutrient, it is important for ensuring optimal health. Low levels of iodine during pregnancy can cause developmental problems in the fetus and may lead to intellectual disabilities or other developmental issues.
To prevent inadequate iodine intake, pregnant women are typically advised to consume adequate amounts of iodized salt or take a supplement.
However, some studies suggest that vegans may have lower rates of iodine deficiency, making supplementation unnecessary or less beneficial than previously thought.
If you're vegan, you may want to be on the lookout for certain foods with high levels of iodine and ensure you're getting enough from these sources.
Some foods with high levels include seaweed (seaweed is often high in iodine and should be eaten at least twice weekly), sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, and thyme leaves.
Seaweed can also be used as a condiment for foods like salads and stir-fries to add nutrients that contain more iodine. Iodine deficiency doesn't seem as prevalent among vegans who eat whole plant-based diets because many plants naturally have high amounts of this mineral.
Choline is a type of B vitamin that is particularly important for the health of pregnant women and the infants they are carrying. The recommended daily intake of choline for pregnant women is 550 milligrams.
Yet, many plant foods do not contain this nutrient. Many vegan diets that exclude animal products are also low in choline. Yet, with supplements like Mega-Choline from Gaia Herbs, vegan pregnancy can be worry-free.
It contains 500 milligrams of pure choline per serving and is an easy way to ensure you get what you need to avoid nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy. Choline supports brain development in children and the maintenance of healthy nerve cells.
This supplement also helps with memory loss, mood regulation, and cardiovascular health — all vital issues when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Choline is an important nutrient that helps support the baby's brain and nervous system development. It is also necessary for maternal mental health — a choline deficiency can lead to depression.
Additionally, inadequate choline intake can result in a low-birth-weight baby with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
The key to getting enough choline on a vegan diet is consuming foods like quinoa, kale, asparagus, and broccoli. These foods are high in this nutrient and can help ensure you have enough during pregnancy.
Yet, even if you eat these foods regularly, it's still possible to be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency because plant sources are not always reliable sources of this vitamin.
For example, many people don't know that avocado is one of the top 10 sources of vitamin B12 in the United States because it's primarily found in its green form (which only contains about 44% of the vitamin).
One nutrient in particular that has been of great concern is folate. It is a key nutrient that helps make new cells and prevents neural tube defects, but it can be difficult to obtain enough through diet alone.
Fortunately, vegan pregnancy supplements are available that are rich in this nutrient, like Nutrafol® by Garden of Life®. This supplement has almost 100 percent of pregnant women's daily recommended intake (DRI).
One of the main nutrients that vegan diets are often low in is folate (also known as folic acid).
Pregnant women need a higher folate intake because it is important for fetal development and cell division.
One study found that pregnant vegans had a 16 percent lower intake than non-vegans, which could cause potential health complications.
It’s also important to note that while the American Dietetic Association recommends 400 mcg/day of folate during pregnancy, there is only 30 mcg in one serving of fortified cereal or 100 mcg in a cup of black beans.
Fortunately, veganism provides other sources of folate, such as dark leafy greens and orange juice. In addition, many vegan supplements on the market include this nutrient, so vegans can easily supplement their diet with enough folate.
So, what vitamins and minerals should you take to be a pregnant vegan woman? Here are some of the most important ones. These are just a few vitamins and minerals pregnant women need to eat that most vegan diets don't provide.
Pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamins, providing the necessary nutrients to ensure the baby gets the necessary nutrients.
Prenatal vitamins also help reduce the risk of birth defects, such as spina bifida and cleft palate. While pregnant, women should also focus on getting plenty of Omega-3 fats, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Iodine, Choline, and Folate.
I trust you enjoyed this article about Vegan Pregnancy Supplements. Please stay tuned for more blog posts to come shortly. Take care!
>>>Do You Want To Surprise Your Family And Guests With Delicious Vegan Lunches And Dinners On A Regular Basis? Become A Member At Veecoco – My #1 Recommendation – And Have Access To Over 700 Delicious, Healthy AND 100% Vegan Recipes<<<
Your Opinion Is Important To Me
Ideas? Thoughts? Questions? I would love to hear from you. Please leave your questions, experience, and remarks about this article on Vegan Pregnancy Supplements in the comments section below. You can also reach me by email at Jeannette@LivingTheVeganLifestyle.org.
This post may contain affiliate links. I earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate and other affiliate programs. Read my full disclosure.