Doctors endorse vegan and vegetarian diets for healthy pregnancies

March 2, 2009 |

Well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are healthful choices for pregnant women and their children, and vitamin B12 needs can be easily met with fortified foods or any common multivitamin, say doctors and dietitians with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). PCRM nutrition experts are available for comment in response to a new Pediatrics study showing that low levels of vitamin B12 may increase the risk for neural tube defects.

The Pediatrics study is based on analysis of stored blood samples originally collected during pregnancy from three groups of Irish women between 1983 and 1990. It’s not clear if any of the women were vegan, but the study clearly states that this population was deliberately chosen because vitamin supplementation and food fortification were rare at that time. The women lived in a region of traditionally high neural tube defects prevalence, suggesting a moderately high genetic predisposition.

Experts agree that pregnant women can thrive on vegan diets. The American Dietetic Association, the nation’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, states that “well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.” Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher levels of fiber, folate, and cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.

“Women who follow vegan diets not only have healthy pregnancies, they are often healthier than moms who consume meat,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., staff dietitian with PCRM. “By eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other healthful vegetarian foods and including breakfast cereals or other foods fortified with vitamin B12, mothers and their children can obtain all the nutrients they need to thrive.”

Choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet can also help women avoid the unhealthy hormones and environmental toxins found in dairy products, meat, and fish. Analyses of vegetarians’ breast milk show that the levels of environmental contaminants in milk are much lower than in non-vegetarians.

Vitamin B12 needs can be met easily with fortified breakfast cereals and soymilk, which are low in fat and calories. The most convenient and reliable B12 source is a daily multivitamin.

5 Responses to Doctors endorse vegan and vegetarian diets for healthy pregnancies

  1. Jessica Simson May 8, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

    I’m in the third trimester of my second entirely vegan pregnancy. My first son, who is now two, was extremely healthy when born and is still healthy, active, and sharp. He had the best TC Bilirubin test results (a very common post-birth test for liver function) that my doctor had seen in his 25+ year career. It may just be coincidence but I think it could have something to do with my vegan diet. He was also a very normal 7 pound 9 ounces when born. I highly recommend the book Becoming Vegan for nutritional advice. There’s a great chapter on nutrition during pregnancy and on raising vegan kids.

    I recently had an ultrasound on the current little bean, and he’s in the 80th percentile for size at this point and everything looks great.

    Life’s Gr8 now!!!

    Jessica From

  2. Anonymous November 26, 2009 at 10:34 pm #

    Dear friend,
    In order to spread and disseminate the information contained in the latest report from the the World Watch Institute, “the 51% campaign” has been launched by an animal and environmental protection organization.
    The organizers wish to inform those attending Copenhagen that 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions are from the livestock sector, it is for this goal that they have created the website

    If you visit the solutions page there are various actions you can take, for example the 2nd solution allows you to send a letter to a number of the EPA officials and environment minister worldwide. You can also add a 51% banner to your blog or website.
    So in the run up to Copenhagen, please visit
    and send a letter to those attending COP15 and spread this website to your friends and Family!

  3. Fred Bortz August 13, 2009 at 7:00 am #

    As a more-or-less normal human being who has evolved to eat meat a well as vegetables, let me recommend the following book for a more balanced view of this issue.

    Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham

    With care and modern technology, a person can survive or thrive on a strictly vegetarian diet, but the doctor’s approval is not the same as an endorsement.

    And, as that book notes, going to the extreme of eating only raw food could be a threat to a woman’s reproductive health, which suggests it is also a threat to her pregnancy.

    Fred Bortz
    Science Books for Young Readers
    Science Book Reviews

  4. Anonymous August 12, 2009 at 6:27 pm #

    I’m not sure about the utility of your comment: you call the article “dangerous” and “ridiculous” and don’t even explain why.
    You are probably a radical meat-eater. Here’s a tip: read more about veganism and vegetarianism and its benefits.

  5. Anonymous July 9, 2009 at 6:13 am #

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. This is the most dangerous, ridiculous piece of dietary advice I have ever read.

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