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Vegetarianism During Pregnancy Print E-mail

During pregnancy, women have increased nutritional requirements for energy, protein, folate, vitamin B, iron, calcium and vitamin D. A healthy pregnancy should just be an extension of your normally healthy diet. If you eat well anyway, then eating right for your unborn child won’t be such a radical change. The secret of a healthy diet is to eat a variety of foods, but focusing on grains, pulses, nuts, seeds and fresh fruit and vegetables. It is also good to remember that there is no truth in the old saying that pregnancy means eating for two. The extra energy needed is only 200-300 calories a day for nine months.

Studies show that about three quarters of all women experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Nausea normally occurs in the first few months although it can last throughout pregnancy.

Many women are repulsed by foods which used to make up the bulk of their diet. These aversions are extremely common in early pregnancy and are believed to be due to a heightened sense of smell, possibly due to hormonal changes. Morning sickness can be relieved by having a dry biscuit or toast before getting up. Avoiding long intervals between meals helps, as nausea often occurs at the same time as hunger. To ease morning sickness many women eat starchy, low fat and plain foods and avoid foods that have strong smells

Pregnant women are advised to avoid soft cheeses such as Brie and mould ripened cheese such as Stilton, because of the risk of the bacteria listeria. Free range eggs have been found to contain salmonella so eggs should be properly cooked.

Vegetables and fruit should be washed thoroughly to remove any contaminated soil and dirt. Buying organic will also limit the chemicals reaching your unborn baby. Drinks containing caffeine (tea, coffee and cola) should be limited and alcohol should be avoided altogether.

Protein

Protein is needed for growth, repair of tissue and protection against infection. Protein can be found in all pulses, nuts, seeds, rice, soya, grains and grain products. Intake of dairy products and eggs need not increase dramatically. Some people believe that excessive amounts may sensitise the baby in the womb to allergies towards these foods. Preeclampsia has been attributed to insufficient protein intake towards the end of pregnancy. It results in high blood pressure which can cause reduced blood flow to the placenta and premature delivery.

Iron

Iron deficiency anemia is not uncommon during pregnancy, among both vegans and non-vegetarians. The need for iron is increased during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. Vegetarians should be especially careful to include plenty of iron in their diet as vegetable sources are not as well absorbed. Iron absorption can be increased by eating food containing vitamin C together with iron-rich foods. Tea contains tannin which can inhibit iron absorption and should not be taken an hour before or after a meal.

Calcium

The body needs extra calcium during pregnancy, especially in the later stages, to enable the baby's bones to develop. Calcium absorption from the gut is more efficient during pregnancy and this should provide enough to meet requirements. Good sources of calcium include green vegetables, almonds, sesame seeds, cow's milk, tofu, cheese, yoghurt, wholegrain cereals and pulses.

Vitamin D

Just 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight on the face and arms is all that is required by the body to manufacture vitamin D. Vitamin D aids the body’s absorption of calcium.

Folate

Folate is one of the B vitamins needed in increased amounts during pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester. Research has shown that a deficiency of folate during pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects. Vegetarians should not be at risk as the best sources of this vitamin are green leafy vegetables, fruit, peanuts, yeast extract and wholegrain cereals.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is required for the maintenance of a healthy nervous system and normal blood formation. It can be found in dairy products, eggs and fortified yeast extract.

 
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