On the latest episode of The Plant-Powered People Podcast, Toni Okamoto and Michelle Cehn dive into a somewhat controversial topic: vegan pregnancy. Their guest, Josie Steiger, had an amazing experience having a great vegan pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby.
Ok, let's be honest: If you thought veganism was a controversial matter, then a vegan pregnancy is borderline scandalous for some people. The thing is many people grew up believing that some essential nutrients are only found in animal products and that eating a plant-based diet would guarantee some kind of nutritional deficiency. As a society, we have a long road ahead when it comes to realizing that a plant-based diet can be very nutritionally dense and leads to a great chance reaching optimal health. But we are taking small steps every single day!
Josie Steiger's Story
Josie Steiger grew up in a small rural area in Wyoming where hunting was a daily activity and a way to put food on the table. She experienced firsthand what it is like to care for and love an animal and then seeing the animal slaughtered as a standard practice. She recalls:
I have a lot of terrible distinct memories of animals being slaughtered. I was supposed to participate in some of those (events) and I would cry and I never actually did because I was so sensitive it really had an effect on me, specially like in later years
Having those feelings, she continued her normal diet until one day she heard from someone about a PeTA campaign that encouraged young people to write letters to companies and politicians standing up for animals rights. That's the moment when something made a click inside her. Very slowly she stopped eating meat and at 25 years old transitioned into veganism.
Becoming vegan can be very isolating for some of us who don't have any support system or a friend to partner up with. She didn't know anyone living a plant-based lifestyle so, slowly, she moved back into vegetarianism. Until she moved to Sacramento and met her now-husband, a long-time vegan, and found the inspiration and support, she was looking for.
Have you noticed how some events that happen in our lives, which might seem random at the time, end up making so much sense later on? If you don't believe in destiny, at least we can acknowledge that some life events lead us into the path we always wanted to venture into. After Josie met her husband, she became vegan, and she never looked back!
Now let's cut to the chase! Vegan pregnancy. Josie gave us all the tips for those vegan mamas or future ones who are looking for guidance on how to thrive expecting while on a plant-based lifestyle.
Take your vitamins!
This one might seem obvious, but prenatal vitamins are crucial before the arrival of our little one. Vegan or not, this is a must! Beware that not all prenatal vitamins are vegan, so watch out for hidden ingredients, especially gelatin (which comes from animal bones), magnesium can be pork-derived, and the vitamin D3 might come from sheep.
One amazing vegan brand Josie recommends is Rainbow Lights Prenatal Vitamins. Ideally, start taking them three months before you become pregnant. And of course, eat nutrient-rich foods to nourish your body during this intense time.
Find support in your partner and others.
Being pregnant can be a bumpy ride! Even more so if you have decided to have a vegan pregnancy. Unfortunately, vegan Moms are faced with constant criticism and need to justify their lifestyle choices much more than others. This is why working together with your partner is so important! Two is stronger than one!
When it comes to researching information and navigating this miraculous path that is parenthood, you can both add something invaluable and lean on each other.
Also, consider finding a midwife if you want the support of a woman who can guide you through the whole process. Midwives are wise and warm nurtures who are there to give you calm and support throughout the entire process. Contact a few of them nearby and interview them to see which one it's the right fit. As a side note, they tend to be more open to vegetarianism and veganism during pregnancy then doctors are.
Do Your Research and Educate Yourself!
There is so much misinformation out there so do yourself a favor and educate yourself. Find books on the topic, read articles about it, watch documentaries on the subject, ask other vegan mammas for advice and arm yourself with knowledge for what's ahead. When in doubt about anything regarding plant-based nutrition check Nutrition Facts and inform yourself from a reliable source like Dr. Greger.
This motto applies to everything regarding pregnancy, not only diet. If you are curious about natural birth or attachment parenting, then read up! There's a wealth of information out there, and you'll want to make the best-informed decisions for you and your child.
Take the time to find vegan milk alternatives!
Many medical experts say that breastfeeding is the best option for your child, so give it a shot and try your best to make it work! But be prepared that sometimes it might not be the best option for you or your baby. Breastfeeding is a journey, and it doesn't always work out how you wanted it to, so don't be hard on yourself and find what makes you and your baby healthy and happy.
Nowadays we have alternatives to the traditional dairy-based infant formula. So ask your doctor and your vegan Mom friends which one might work for your little one.
Know Your Power!
Remember! You are your best advocate, and you know what's best for your baby. Your body is so wise it will let you know if something doesn't feel right. You might get a lot of unsolicited advice, so try to be strong and trust in yourself and your beliefs!
Pregnancy can be a very emotional time, and some women tend to feel very vulnerable as the months go by so know your power and surround yourself with love and positivity. Remind yourself; you're creating life while being kind to all other beings! You are amazing!
Here we leave a list of the resources that Josie shared with us!