Is It Safe to Follow a Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy?

If you're a vegetarian and pregnant or plan to conceive in the short term, you may be worrying about your diet. In this article we'll clear up the main doubts that surround vegetarianism and pregnancy.
Is It Safe to Follow a Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy?

Last update: 25 October, 2018

Many women are concerned about the possible risks of following a vegetarian diet during pregnancy. But is it actually dangerous?

The reality is that all diets have their risks if there is no balance. This means that consuming too much meat can be very harmful to your health; in the same way, abstaining from meat altogether won’t necessarily benefit your body either.

What should a pregnant woman’s diet contain?

During pregnancy there are two elementary functions that a woman’s body has to carry out. The first is to protect the growing fetus. The second is to take care of her own well-being.

To carry out these functions it’s important to have all of the following nutrients:

  • Proteins: are very important for the formation of tissues, muscles and bones.
  • Carbohydrates: provide energy that is required during this stage.
  • Vitamins and minerals: are essential complements to the main nutrients mentioned above.
  • Folic acid: helps to create red blood cells. It also prevents problems such as megalomaniac anemia and miscarriages.

Taking the information above into account, it’s clear that lean meats, eggs, fish, vegetables, nuts and cereals are very important during pregnancy.

Dairy products are also necessary and so is water and low sugar liquids. Fruits and vegetables should never be lacking from a pregnant woman’s diet.

Is It Safe to Follow a Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy?

Risks of a vegetarian diet during pregnancy

Beyond its many benefits, following a vegetarian diet during pregnancy can cause certain deficiencies. This should be avoided.

Seek professional attention to help you plan a diet in accordance to what you want while covering both your needs and those of the baby.

If you follow the professional’s advice, you won’t be exposed to the following complications:

Lack of iron

Pregnant women who don’t eat meat need to take better advantage of iron. This doesn’t simply imply consuming more, it also implies absorbing more.

The human body tends to assimilate iron easily when it comes from animal origin, the same doesn’t happen when it comes to iron from vegetable origin.

Iron fulfils v ery important functions during pregnancy: it contributes to the growth of the fetus, helps to alleviate tiredness and it prevents anemia caused by iron deficiency.

Iron can be found in: soy and its derivatives, bran and spinach as well as other foods that contain vitamin C

“The truth is that any diet has its risks if there is no balance.”

Lack of protein

If your diet doesn’t involve consuming meat, protein must be obtained from other sources. Protein is an important nutrient because it participates in the construction of tissues, muscles and bones. In addition, it plays a role in the regulation of metabolism.

If you’re a vegetarian and pregnant, and looking for sources of protein, the following are available: protein of animal origin such as eggs and milk, and proteins of vegetable origin such as legumes, nuts and cereals.

Absence of other important nutrients

In addition to the nutrients that have already been mentioned, zinc is very important during pregnancy. This mineral is useful when it comes to processing proteins. It also helps to form enzymes that improve brain activity.

Is It Safe to Follow a Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy?

Calcium is another important nutrient. Pregnant women should consume approximately one thousand milligrams per day. It’s important for the formation of the baby’s bones. Calcium can be found in:

  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Nuts
  • Broccoli
  • Parsley
  • Seaweed
  • Cabbage
  • Raw fruits and vegetables

It’s also important to mention vitamins. Many doctors recommend vitamin supplements for pregnant women. Vitamins are important for many different functions in the body. They can be found in natural juices, fruits and vegetables.

In conclusion, it’s perfectly possible to have a vegetarian diet during pregnancy. However, it’s important to meet certain requirements. One of the most indispensable requirements is consulting with a health care professional or a nutritionist.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Henry LA., Cassidy T., McLaughlin M., Pentieva K., et al., Folic acid supplementation throughout pregnancy: psychological developmental benefits for childres. Acta Paeditr, 2018. 107 (8): 1370-1378.
  • Sebastiani G., Barbero AH., Borrás Novell C., Casanova MA., et al., The effects of vegetarian and vegan diet during pregnancy on the health of mother and offspring. Nutrients, 2019.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.