So, how have things been going with the pregnancy?
So far so great! This was a planned pregnancy so we were as prepared as we could be. Estimated date of conception: 5 June 2009. Date of positive pregnancy test: 30 June 2009. Estimated Birth Date: 10 March 2010.
Everything was smooth sailing up until about the 5th week, when I started getting nauseous and fatigued. Mmmmm, morning sickness, which for me lasted all day and never actually culminated in regurgitation. I just fell sick. Constantly. I also got a UTI, which are quite common in pregnancy, but I managed to treat it naturally instead of with antibiotics (woo-hoo!)
I’m a naturally go-go-go kind of person – we affectionately call it ‘Hyper-Productivity Disorder’ – so being too nauseous and too tired to work was a difficult adjustment for me. But relaxation has been an important lesson to learn, I think.
Prior to pregnancy I’d done all sorts of research and made all these awesome über-healthy meal plans. But of course, that all went out the window with my morning sickness. I swear I went a whole week sustained on nothing but popcorn and potatoes – nutritious! *sigh* But I digress.
Around 13-14 weeks, I started to feel much better, and I haven’t had any morning sickness since. My second trimester is humming along splendidly! I feel great, I love my bulging belly, and I’m finally feeling the little guy move!
What did you plan and purchase before you got pregnant?
Well firstly, I took out my IUD. I did this a few months before we began trying to conceive, because I wanted to give my body a chance to cycle naturally a few times. I also took out my nipple rings, because I wanted to give them lots and lots of time to heal all up before breastfeeding. I had my annual female physical to make sure everything was copacetic, and I also had an entire blood panel done. I checked my nutrient and metabolic levels (luckily everything was within normal range) so that I would know if there was anything (like maybe vitamin D, or B12), that I needed to pay special attention to. Those were the first big steps I took.
In the interim between removing the birth control and actually trying to conceive, I was all about researching pregnancy and nutrition. I began my prenatals, and I researched which nutrients were most important to pregnant women. I made lists of foods high in these nutrients and I tacked it to the side of my fridge.
I switched from coffee to tea, but didn’t remove caffeine entirely until I became pregnant. I continued to drink alcohol moderately until I discovered I was pregnant. I read a book on vegan pregnancy and parenting (but it was old and pretty outdated) and I began reading the classic, “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.” Other than that, I didn’t really buy anything at all. I kind of still haven’t, haha.
Are you going to remain vegan?
But is veganism safe for pregnancy, the baby, and breastfeeding?
There is a lot of misunderstanding about diet and nutrition, and there are a lot of misconceptions about veganism out there. I want to be very clear here: I am an intelligent, educated, and fiercely fact-driven person. I would never risk my or my child’s safety. Please don’t let anyone scare you into thinking you cannot have a healthy vegan pregnancy and infant. In fact, challenge them to show you just ONE case of a well nourished vegan mother birthing a baby who was unhealthy due to dietary deficiencies.
Then, remind them that the American Dietetic Association’s 2009 position paper on veg*nism states, “. . . appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life-cycle including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence and for athletes.”
Personally, I’m lucky enough to know vegan-from-birth children in my own life, but many people don’t have that experience to calm their nerves. For some awesome inspiration and reassurance, check out this page of vegan children and their stories.
What supplements do you take?
I replaced my multivitamin with a prenatal multi a few months before we began trying to conceive. My multivitamin and my prenatal both contain B12, but I take an additional sublingual once or twice a week. Since being pregnant, I’ve been taking between 1,200 IU and 2,400 IU of Vitamin D2 each day – 1,200 in the summer and now up to 2,400 for the sunless, cold + flu-infested winter months. I also take a calcium (cal-mag-zinc) supplement because I’m paranoid and I spent most of my adulthood not thinking about and not getting enough calcium. Finally, I take the ever important DHA (Damian calls it ‘the vegan fishies’).
I usually drink an Emergen-C packet most days, to keep the immune system up and the flu away.
Whew! Seem like a lot? Maybe, but I guarantee you I’d be doing it just the same if I were an omnivore! I’m just crazy like that.
What foods are most important to a pregnant vegan?
Whole foods! Non-processed, non-microwave ready, non-‘million ingredients’, real foods. I know it’s tough and I’m guilty of slacking in the kitchen myself these days, but it’s crucial to make sure our diets are primarily composed of real, whole foods. (With a little wiggle room of course, for the sake of our convenience and our sanity! Yay sorbet!)
The micronutrients that pregnant women should be especially aware of include: iron, zinc, folate, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Iron is plentiful in pumpkin seeds, soy beans, Blackstrap molasses, sunflower seeds, cashews, lentils, spinach/greens, quinoa, black and pinto beans, chickpeas, and potatoes. Try to eat iron with vitamin C (orange slices in your spinach salad; bell pepper on your beans) to greatly increase absorption.
Zinc is plentiful in sesame seeds (tahini!), baked beans, cashews, chickpeas, lentils, almonds, kidney beans, peas, peanuts, and oatmeal. Zinc is more common in ‘roasted, leavened, or fermented’ foods – so keep that in mind.
Folate is plentiful in whole wheat foods, lentils, pinto beans, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, okra, OJ/oranges, spinach, asparagus, avocado, and grapefruit. Switch to whole wheat breads and pastas and tortillas, and you shouldn’t have to worry about getting your folate.
Calcium is plentiful in Blackstrap molasses, collards, soy beans/tempeh/tofu, navy beans, kale, bok choi, spinach, black beans, almonds, chickpeas, and sesame seeds/tahini. So make sure to eat your greens!
Omega-3s, in the form of EPA, are found in flax seeds and flax oil, canola oil, walnuts, and spirulina. A healthy body should be able to convert EPA into the essential and usable DHA. Still, I recommend pregnant women (veg*n and omni alike) take an additional DHA supplement.
How are you meeting your protein requirement?
The recommended daily protein intake for a pregnant woman is between 60-75 grams. If you’re meeting your caloric needs and eating a balanced, non-processed, whole foods diet, it’s really hard NOT to easily meet this amount. I recently did a nutritional analysis of a random day, and I had consumed 93 grams of protein! 93 GRAMS! And that was on a totally soy-free day, too.
So where do I get it? From everything! (protein is in everything, remember, even veggies). But especially from legumes like lentils and beans, or chickpeas and soy (tofu and tempeh), from whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, or whole wheat bread and oatmeal (a serving of oatmeal has as much protein as an egg!), nuts and seeds, and protein-rich fruits/veggies like sweet potatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms.
I heard that pregnant women need to take fish oil or eat fish. / I heard that vegans can’t get DHA and this is bad for the baby.
DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, has been the subject of tons of research over the past decade or so. We now understand the importance of this essential dietary element, and the role it plays in brain development, attention span, vision, depression, disease prevention, and more.
You know how everyone is always going on and on (and ON!) about how healthy fish is and how awesome fish oil capsules are? Well, that’s because of the DHA. And a lot of people mistakenly believe that veg*ns can’t get DHA since we won’t eat fish.
But don’t worry! In the same way that we get our calcium just like cows get it (from green plants), we can get our DHA just like the fish get theirs – from microalgae! Veg*n microalgae supplements are widely available.
A recent study, published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2008, concludes that microalgal DHA is just as bioavailable, and totally bioequivalent, to consuming salmon.
Further, a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics in 2005, showed that pre-term infants fed with formula containing algal DHA grew significantly faster than those fed with formula containing fish-derived DHA. The algal DHA group was superior in both weight gain and in length.
There is also no risk of contaminants like mercury and other heavy metals, which is always a concern in fish and fish-derived supplements.
So you don’t need to eat fish if you get pregnant, okay?!
But what if your child wants to eat meat?
Well, it’s like this. I am an intensely thoughtful person. I think about everything, over and over, all the time. So, I tend to have pretty strong opinions on most things. As an opinionated and ethically driven person, I certainly will do my best to instill my own moral code into my children.
However, most important to me is raising a human capable of their own thoughtfulness. I intend to urge questioning, open-mindedness, curiosity, intellectualism, and free-thinking; all these things that may very well lead my child to different conclusions than my own. But I’m raising an individual, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I can’t wait to hear my son challenge my philosophy, to experience the breadth of his minds capacity. I’ll love wherever that leads him.
Are you using a midwife or a Doctor?
I see a group of midwives, one of which will deliver our son (but we don’t know who will be on call when I go into labor). I did have one meeting with an OB, just to feel it out, but we were pretty set on midwives from the start.
Will you deliver at home or in a birthing center or in a hospital?
My midwives have their own practice in a hospital, so we will have our baby there. I was curious about home birth, but in my husband’s words, “I want a swat team on the other side of the doors.” His comfort and sense of safety is very important to me and to our birthing experience, so I have no problem acquiescing on this. We are planning an all-natural, drug and intervention free, water birth.
Are you using a doula? (What is a doula?)
A doula assists in the birthing process, by providing physical and emotional support and often advocating on behalf of the family and their Birth Plan (should unforeseen circumstances arise). We will definitely have a doula, though Damian will be my primary labor support.
Will you circumcise?
Although I do not judge anyone for their choices (whether they are religious or secular), Damian and I will not be circumcising our son. I think I’ll leave it at that.
Will you breastfeed or use formula?
I believe very strongly in the importance of breastfeeding, when a woman is physically able. I plan to breastfeed long term (at least a year with our son self-weening when he chooses). I myself breastfed until I was two!
I also plan to pump and donate to a milk bank.
Will you use stainless steel bottles or plastic? Will you buy baby food or make it yourself?
We’re going with glass bottles. We will make all our own baby food (Vita-Mix Vita-Mix *crosses fingers for the Vita-Mix fairy* Vita-Mix!!!)
What does “Socially Conscious, Totally Fabulous” mean in terms of having a baby?
I plan to approach this experience the same way I approach the rest of my life: with ethics and enthusiasm. Damian and I intend to buy secondhand as much as we can, or to make what we need ourselves. We will use cloth diapers exclusively. (I just started the collection last week, with 6 gently-used BumGenius’s. Woo-hoo!) We will focus on wooden, cloth, and other ‘natural’ toys – and keep the plastic out of our house.
And our little family will be totally fabulous!
So, is that your natural hair color!???
No way! Neverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!! hahaha