Many people may know that a plant based diet is ideal for conditions like cardiovascular disease, weight loss, and diabetes, but is a plant based diet safe for pregnancy?
The answer is a resounding yes! In fact, many people may be shocked to find that studies have shown that the ideal diet for pregnancy and birth is a plant based diet.1
This means that we should be consuming primarily fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds while avoiding meat, dairy, eggs, oils, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates. Though this may seem a far cry from the average advice that we hear, there is a great deal of science to back up this claim.2 Data also show that diets high in meat and dairy, particularly the Keto diet, cause birth defects and interferes with fetal development.3
For those that are concerned about the safety of this diet, let the words of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics put you at ease, “Well planned vegan diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation.” 4
Importance of Diet in Pregnancy
Diet is incredibly important to both mother and baby during pregnancy! One study found that the diet of the mother during pregnancy has a direct impact on the behavioral and mental health of the child later in life.5 The same study indicated that ADHD in children was significantly impacted by the diet of the mother during gestation. Another study indicated that the epigenetics of a child was determined primarily by the diet of the mother during pregnancy.6 In particular, risk of particular MTHFR mutations were predicated upon the mother’s diet.
Additionally, diet plays a role in the birth weight of a child, as well as the health of the newborn.7 Another study found that a “Western Diet” focused on meat, dairy, eggs, and refined carbohydrates is directly linked to birth defects.8 Yet another study indicated that children whose mothers ate the most animal protein during pregnancy were more likely to become overweight in adulthood, compared with children whose mothers ate the least. 9 A number of other studies have come to similar conclusions, leading us to believe that the health of our newborn child is directly linked to the diet of the mother before and after pregnancy.
Diet not only impacts the child but can impact the pregnancy and birth itself. Studies show that diet can play a large role in morning sickness (including hyperemesis gravidarum), gestational diabetes, hypertension and preeclampsia, total labor time, birth recovery, and even likelihood of C-section. This is why it is important for mothers to consider a plant based diet in pregnancy.
I’ve watched these principles play out first hand. One of my clients recently reported, ”My first pregnancy I *thought* my diet was good, you know, getting lots of protein like they tell me to, but unfortunately I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and eventually ended up needing a cesarean section. Additionally, my placenta was beginning to calcify. My blood pressure was always in the average to high range, and I gained roughly 35-40lbs, even though I remained active throughout my pregnancy (I could still do 10 pushups at 39 weeks). Cassidy sent me great research and medical studies that showed my diet was the #1 cause of my pre-eclampsia, so I was ready to try something better. My second pregnancy was so much better in so many ways! My weight gain was textbook perfect, only gaining 24lbs. I had enough of the good foods in my diet, that the pre-eclampsia did not return, and I was able to have a successful VBAC at 41 weeks (no induction needed), with a healthy placenta intact and a strong amniotic sac (and I was still able to do burpees at 40weeks). The first half of my pregnancy my blood pressure was in the upper average range, and the month we started transitioning [to a plant based diet] you can see it drop! It stayed low (think 90/62) and in a healthy range the remainder of my pregnancy!”
So if you are looking for an easier, more comfortable birth free of the increasingly common pregnancy symptoms of today, a plant based diet is the answer! Give it a try, and perhaps your doctor will be amazed.