We speak to a registered dietician about how a vegan diet might impact conception and pregnancy.
By Anna Bonet
If you’re a vegan and you’re trying to get pregnant, you might be concerned about whether your plant-based diet can affect your chances of conception. We recently looked at the vegetarian diet and fertility and found that going meat-free is not generally a problem for conception. But with a more restrictive diet that cuts out all animal products, should vegans be concerned?
While a vegan diet can certainly be a healthy one, it’s important to be mindful of what you choose to eat, especially if you’re trying to get pregnant. We speak to Sophie Medlin, Registered Dietitian and director of City Dietitians about the vegan diet, fertility and pregnancy:
Does being vegan affect fertility?
In short, following a vegan diet might have an impact on your chances of conception because essential nutrients that are important for fertility are harder to come by on a plant-based diet. However, research in this area is still limited and provided you ensure you do eat the right nutrients, you can overcome these obstacles.
There are certain nutrients that are harder to find on a vegan diet and many of these are associated with fertility.
‘There are certain nutrients that are harder to find on a vegan diet and many of these are associated with fertility,’ explains Medlin. ‘B vitamins, particularly B12 and folic acid are closely linked with fertility and are scarce on a vegan diet. Omega 3 from fish or algae is essential for conception and pregnancy and iodine is much harder to find on a vegan diet and is essential for conception.’
Can a vegan diet benefit fertility?
A plant-based diet tends to be a healthy one, and therefore going vegan could benefit fertility, as taking care of your health is one of the key factors for getting pregnant. However, cutting out major food groups does put you at risk of vitamin deficiency, so meal planning is essential.
‘You may cut down on junk food and perhaps lose a bit of weight so that you’re in the healthy weight range on a vegan diet,’ says Medlin. ‘This may boost fertility initially but lower levels of essential vitamins could counteract the benefits.’
If you are proactive and ensure you source the nutrients found in animal products from supplements or other food sources, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Are there any potential risks?
Some experts believe that eschewing animal products could impact your chances of getting pregnant. ‘It can be much harder to conceive with low levels of the nutrients discussed,’ warns Medlin. ‘Lower levels of these nutrients have also been associated with problems with the development of babies brains.’
‘Healthcare professionals in Belgium have recently stated that a vegan diet isn’t safe for pregnant women or children, but this has led to controversy,’ she adds.
How to have a healthy vegan pregnancy
When you do become pregnant, it’s essential that you maintain a balanced diet throughout your pregnancy so that both mum and baby stay healthy.
‘It is important to eat a varied diet and consume plenty of sources of protein,’ explains Medlin. ‘Supplementation is key and it would be advisable to see a registered dietitian for advice to ensure the diet is nutritionally adequate for the mother and the baby.’