Vegan and Pregnant—Now What?


Ashlee with her son, Desmond.

As I write this, I am seven months pregnant with my second child. My first born is just over two- years-old. My husband and I are extremely excited that we are welcoming another vegan bundle of joy in just a couple of months. Well, most of the time. There are times when I have moments of panic—how the $U@&@% are we going to handle two young children? This past weekend, my two-year-old had a fever that wouldn’t go away, a nasty cough that made him sound like he was coughing up his internal organs, a continually runny nose, and then he also ended up with pink eye (thank you, day care). I know he was the one who was sick and suffering all the symptoms, but I am exhausted! Between the constant attention needed and waking up several times during the night, caring for a sick child is tiring, especially when you are seven months pregnant. The thought of adding a newborn to the mix makes my head hurt. Then I tell myself that people do this all the time. If raising more than one child is that bad, the rate of reproduction in this country would decrease drastically. Yes, there will certainly be difficult days, but there were also be double the amount of happiness, laughter, and smiles.

Putting the thoughts of having two children that freak me out aside, I do have a level of comfort and confidence during this pregnancy that I didn’t have during the first few months of my first pregnancy. I became a vegan on January 1, 2010 after reading Jonathan Saffron Foer’s life-changing book, Eating Animals. Then in April of 2012, I found out I was pregnant. After being a vegan for over two years (mind you, I wasn’t a perfect vegan during those two years—I feel like the road to veganism is a process that takes some time), I went back to being a vegetarian during my first trimester. Looking back, I think it had to do with not being able to find enough information about being vegan and pregnant, and, to be honest, the influence of family and friends. Simply put, I got scared that being vegan during pregnancy meant that I would not be able to adequately provide for my fetus. And, as we all know, the amount of pressure to do everything right when you are a parent (or parent-to-be) is immense. Everyone you talk to has something to say about how you parent, especially when you are a vegan parent.

During the first few months of my first pregnancy, I would eat cheese and yogurt, and maybe an egg, every once in awhile. I was still closer to being a vegan than a vegetarian, but I justified any “cheat” indulgences to the fact that I needed to eat it because it was good for the baby. My husband also thought I should eat some dairy and eggs for their nutritional value. Since he was half responsible for the pregnancy, I wanted to respect his thoughts as well. At the time, my husband was just a vegetarian. He hadn’t crossed over to veganism just yet.

What made me realize the error of my ways and go back to being a vegan at the beginning of my second trimester? The answer is simple—I was reminded why I went vegan in the first place. My husband and I attended the Humane Society of the United States’ Taking Action for Animals Conference in Washington D.C. After hearing the presentations, watching the videos, and learning a ton of information that weekend, I quickly went back to being a vegan, and my husband also became a vegan. I left the conference feeling confident that I was doing my baby no harm by eating healthy and compassionately. In fact, I felt like I was doing my baby a favor.

My decision to go back to being a vegan was not well received by everyone. My mother-in-law said to me, “You promised you wouldn’t be a vegan during your pregnancy.” Now, I don’t recall making any promises, but perhaps I did tell her that I would remain vegetarian throughout the pregnancy. And I am sure there were others who felt like I shouldn’t be a vegan, but who were afraid to say something directly to me. Although there were some who doubted my decision, I also had support as well from other family and friends, which is so helpful during a stressful and emotional time in your life.

Surprisingly, my non-vegan OB/GYN doctors (due to insurance issues, I went through a couple during my first pregnancy) did not seem too concerned about my dietary choice. The two doctors I saw only stressed that I take my pre-natal vitamin and take a vegan DHA supplement. After I first mentioned my veganism, it never came up again in later appointments. All my blood work and other tests showed that I was doing just fine being vegan and pregnant.

Needless to say, I have remained vegan for the entirety of my current pregnancy. I am going to a different OB/GYN, and again the doctor has no concerns about my diet. Friends and family are more understanding and accepting of my diet this time around since, after all, my first born turned out just fine.

Being pregnant is a wonderful time in your life (well, except for the morning sickness—I could do without that aspect of it). However, when you are pregnant, you realize that you are now responsible for another human being. With that responsibility comes stress, doubt, worry, guilt, and a range of other emotions. When you are vegan and pregnant, you don’t need an added layer of stress, doubt, worry, and guilt because you have made the informed decision to eat and live a certain way. Thankfully, my lapse in self-confidence about my decision to be a vegan during the first trimester of my first pregnancy was short-lived. I have no doubt now that I am doing right by myself and my children.

Vegan and pregnant—now what? Celebrate and enjoy your pregnancy. Your body is doing something amazing. Seek comfort in the fact that you are not the only vegan pregnant woman out there. Turns out, there are quite a few of us. Also, be confident in your decision to remain a vegan during your pregnancy. Don’t let others persuade you to abandon your beliefs. But, hey, if you do have moments of extreme doubt, don’t worry about that either. It is only natural. After all, I cannot say that I was completely vegan for both of my pregnancies. We all have to follow our own journey. And, practically speaking, like any pregnant woman, you should eat well and take care of yourself…well, the majority of the time…I won’t tell if you sneak that extra vegan cookie, brownie, piece of cake, or bowl of ice cream. After all, pregnant women have cravings that need to be fulfilled (for me, it’s chia pudding this time around, which is a little more exciting than my craving for carrots and hummus during my first pregnancy).

P.S. Oh, and by the way, I also breastfed my first born for nineteen months while being on an exclusively vegan diet, and we both survived. In fact, we did quite well.

Posted in Pregnancy

Ashlee is a mom to three vegan cuties, lawyer, and animal advocate. She has been vegan since 2010. She and her husband are in the process of starting a microsanctuary for farm animals in Orange County, NY. You can send her your questions via email.