There is so much information on the internet and in books about what exactly is the best way to have a healthy and enjoyable pregnancy, and it can be overwhelming. I have taken my experience from my wonderful vegan pregnancy with Norah and put it here for you to easily browse through and hopefully gain some support and new ideas. Remember, healthy means more than just physically, it is just as important to be mentally healthy as well.
What Do I Eat?
I hear many women asking if it is safe for them to continue being vegan while they’re pregnant. In fact, I was once asked if I was going to stay vegan while I went through my pregnancy with Norah, and even had a couple of people tell me it wasn’t healthy. Of course it is healthy! Every single nutrient that your body needs comes from plants and it is actually better to be giving your baby whole plant foods, instead of something that came from a dead animal. It can be difficult for some women in the first trimester (or even throughout pregnancy) to feel like eating certain foods, this cannot be helped and you just have to do your best! Squeeze in a green smoothie wherever you can, but above all, listen to your body.
Focus on these foods:
- -Leafy Greens! So incredibly important for helping prevent neural tube defects (such as spina bifida), toss them in a smoothie if you feel you aren’t getting enough.
- -Flaxseeds, Chia seeds and Walnuts! Omega 3 Fatty Acids are absolutely crucial to fetal brain development, toss them on a salad, in a smoothie or in baking.
- -Berries! (Frozen or fresh) They’re rich in antioxidants which are needed for helping prevent oxidative stress, that can cause pre eclampsia, preterm labour and fetal growth restriction. Eat fresh out of the bowl or in a smoothie.
- Lentils, Quinoa, Oatmeal and Spinach! Iron, which is key for making extra blood, helps to prevent anemia (low blood an oxygen levels) and is also important to help your body from losing too much blood during birth. Can be eaten in a variety of ways! And I love spinach in my smoothies.
(Can you tell I am a huge fan of smoothies as a way to get a ton of calories and nutrients?!)
This is all based off of my own research and what I found to be the most crucial things to focus on for me. Of course, this does not cover all of the food groups and it is important to eat lots of calories! Personally, I took a natural vegan prenatal vitamin, just be sure that I had a good foundation of nutrients. I encourage you to do your own research and to eat and supplement in a way that makes you feel good! It goes without saying that you must drink an abundance of water, as dehydration can cause fainting spells and may make it more difficult for your baby to receive nutrients.
How Do I Exercise?
It is encouraged that you don’t change your exercise regime too drastically when you become pregnant, unless of course you are a boxer or rugby player etc. ‘Hot Yoga’ is also considered unhealthy, as it raises your core body temperature too high for optimal fetal development and can be dangerous for your baby (the same caution goes for saunas, hot tubs and scorching baths).
My favourite way to exercise while I was pregnant with Norah was hiking! My husband and I loved going on huge, long walks uphill and through trails for hours on end. I also did lots of stretching (well, as best I could once my belly got in the way)! Walking and hiking is the best way to help keep up your cardio, which you’ll need for the birthing process. Walking, squats and lunges are also known to help encourage the baby down into the birth canal, as you approach your due date.
What About My Sore Muscles And Growing Belly?
Sore backs and feet come with the territory! I would certainly hope that you have a loving and attentive husband, who is willing to lend his strong hands to your sore muscles (he is, after all, the one who put the baby there). Taking care of yourself in a relaxing way is completely underrated but is an absolute MUST. Your mental wellness depends on it and stress can take its toll, not only on innocent bystanders, but also on the baby. The perfect remedy for sore feet is soaking them in a hot bucket of water with some epsom salt, for about 15 minutes, or until the water begins to cool. Immediately after, put your feet up and have your hubby give you a coconut oil foot massage- nothing better! As my due date came and went, I also found much relief in chiropractors and massage therapists.
I used mainly coconut oil on my entire body throughout my pregnancy, but as my belly began to grow, I started realizing that my skin wasn’t staying as moisturized and I needed a bit more help. I knew keeping hydrated and moisturized was so important for helping the skin to stretch. Multiple times a day I applied natural, handmade belly butters made from various oils and butters, by women who were local to me and that made such a huge difference! Jojoba oil, shea butter, sweet almond oil, mango butter, camellia seed oil and cocoa butter were moisturizers they used in their products. You can absolutely purchase and use these items completely on their own and they work wonderfully.
What Tests Do I Need To Do?
Honestly, when it came to tests, we decided to do the bare minimum. We had fantastic midwives who were understanding and honest about what each test did and how crucial it was. I had two blood tests, one at the beginning of my pregnancy and one closer to the end. I also had one elective ultrasound and one that was requested by my midwife when we went over our estimated date. When I say ‘estimated date’, that really is all that it is. If you give birth anywhere within two weeks of that day, whether it be before or after, that is considered completely normal. I never took the ‘gross diabetes test drink’ that most women are persuaded to take. My midwives requested I pee on a little urine testing strip at each appointment, which gave instant results as to whether I was at risk for diabetes or not. So, that’s pretty much it! Going for your wellness visits shouldn’t be stressful, with a ton of tests, shots and overwhelming information. You should be comfortable to ask questions and speak your mind, your voice should be heard and valued.
Pregnancy does not need to be overly complicated, I have done my best to simplify it here and the rest is up to you! Find yourself a supportive Midwife, a loving group of people (especially other moms) and listen to your body. Lay down, sleep, read a book and relax whenever you can. Your body is doing an incredible thing in only 9 months! And keep in mind that what you put onto and inside of your body, the baby is also getting exactly that. Be kind to yourself and be kind to your baby.