How healthy are Vegan and Vegetarian Diets for Pregnancies

Diets which exclude any form of animal protein including dairy products are known as vegan or vegetarian diets. The appropriateness of a vegan diet for pregnant women has been questioned often. During pregnancy, a woman requires a lot of minerals and vitamins which are sourced mainly from animal proteins. Women following the vegan diet lose out on these thereby risking their babies.

Vegetarian Diets and Pregnancy

Vegetarian diets are of various types. They have been broadly classified as:

  • Vegan- All forms of animal proteins such as poultry products, dairy products, meat and fishes etc. are excluded from a diet. Food stuffs that have been solely derived from plants and non-animal sources are consumed.
  • Lactovegetarian- Diets including food stuffs sourced from plants and dairy products such as milk, cream, butter etc.
  • Lacto-ovovegetarian- Diets including plant sourced food stuffs along with dairy products like cream, butter, whole fat milk and eggs.
  • Pescatarian- Fish, eggs and dairy products are consumed with fruits and vegetables. Meat products have been excluded from this sort of diet.

During pregnancy a woman is expected to gain weight for the normal development of the foetus. She also requires minerals such as iron, folic acid, calcium and vitamins such as vitamin D, A, C, B12 are needed. Meats and other animal products are rich sources of such minerals and vitamins. Women following a strict vegan diet exclude themselves from the richness of these products and hence risk the lives of their foetus. Women following vegetarian diets need to be extra careful about what they are consuming in order to maintain their required level of nutrition. They need to consult physicians regularly for the kind of foods they are allowed to have.