I Ate A Vegan Diet Throughout My Pregnancy — Here's My Experience
I remember it as if it were yesterday. Two red lines on my pregnancy test. I ran from the bathroom to where my husband stood in our living room: "We're having a baby!" It was our first, and we were thrilled.
With pregnancy comes many choices regarding your lifestyle and health. (These, of course, are between you and your doctor—and as long as your health care practitioner thinks you and the baby are healthy, that's all that matters.) But a big part of this is diet: As there are many challenges with conducting studies on pregnant women, the research regarding what diet is best limited. However, the scientific consensus is that if you are otherwise healthy, sticking to a nutritious vegan diet is fine.
I am vegan. Here's my experience with practicing this diet during pregnancy.
Why did I go vegan in the first place?
I got pregnant four years into my plant-based raw food diet plan. I originally switched to this way of eating for various reasons, including my health, conscious growth, and the positive impact upon animals and the environment. But more than anything, it was he right choice for my body: It made me feel better allover, and it eased some of the health struggles I had dealing with, such as fatigue, fluctuating weigh, and hormonal issues. When I went vegan, my body started responding positively to it almost right away.
Eating a plant-based diet helped me manage my health issues and led me to discover what a "high-energy" life is really all about. With this beautiful level of vibrancy available to me, I got into fitness, and I started running. Eventually, I even signed up for endurance races, completed a full marathon (that's someone who couldn't even get out of bed a few years back due to severe chronic fatigue). I was the fittest and healthiest I had ever been in my life and my body radiated well-being.
And then I was lucky enough to conceive naturally. Here's how my vegan pregnancy progressed trimester by trimester.
First trimester: A triathlon and a negative pregnancy test
I had my first triathlon race for which I had been putting in plenty of training for. When my period didn't come, I got myself a test and it showed negative. I thought, "Oh well, it must be because of all the intense fitness training I've been doing." It was really hard to complete the race, but I pushed through it and finished with a good time. Little did I know that I already had a little sprout growing in my belly (I was about five to six weeks pregnant).
The thing was I couldn't understand why I was experiencing such weird changes to my appetite all of a sudden. My favorite green banana smoothies that I enjoyed for my lunches for so long didn't attract me anymore.
I had a hard time eating any greens, and salads lost their appeal. As a certified holistic nutritionist myself, I know and I teach my clients about the importance of eating sufficient amounts of greens, yet I couldn't eat them! On some days all I felt like eating were cherries and oranges, and I just couldn't get anything else into me. But then again, I'm an athlete…how could I get enough calories from such low-calorie fruit?
I started having cravings for steamed veggies, like cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Again, that was strange to me because I had loved eating mostly raw fruits and veggies for years without cravings. I also started desiring and eating some nuts and seeds, which I never did well on before getting pregnant.
Apart from the need for afternoon naps, feeling more tired, and the sudden appetite changes, I had no morning sickness at all, which is incredible considering how many women suffer with it when pregnant.
Second trimester: An incredible appetite
Finally, my pregnancy (and my sanity) were confirmed: I was pregnant! And all those weird changes I was experiencing were finally explained. It all made sense.
And luckily, my appetite returned, and I started eating lots of healthy food!
I enjoyed greens once again, and I was plenty of greens, salads, and healthy fats. I added some lightly cooked veggies a couple of times per week and when I craved it a lot, some rice noodles. I also started to crave avocados—eating them daily made me feel really strong in my body. Actually, my appetite was so incredible that my husband would frequently find me in the kitchen at midnight eating tomatoes, avocados, or other fruits. The kitchen was my favorite place in the house.
Although my physical exercise wasn't as intense as it had been before I got pregnant, my body had gotten used to moving for many hours every day, and I continued with running, cycling, weights, swimming, and walking. I was gaining a healthy amount of weight, but not too much.
I had zero swelling whatsoever. No back pain. No risk of gestational diabetes. A healthy pregnancy weight. I felt amazing and wanted to tell the whole world about it! My body was flexible, supple, and I loved moving it. During my third trimester, I dropped running and then, later on, cycling as it got uncomfortable. I was lifting lighter weights, swimming, and doing plenty of walking.
My diet remained the same as it was during my second trimester—fruits, greens, big salads, healthy fats, and steamed veggies. My favorite salad was chopped lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lots of steamed kale with tahini-chia-celery-sun-dried-tomato dressing.
I went into labor at around 41 weeks of pregnancy and gave birth naturally to our healthy 7½-pound baby daughter. She was born with her eyes wide open, looked a healthy pink, and was very active from the get-go. I couldn't have been happier.
The bottom line:
Of course, as with anything, it's recommended to talk to your doctor before making any diet or lifestyle changes, especially when it comes to pregnancy. I'd been eating this way for a while before getting pregnant, and it was the right choice for my body during my pregnancy.
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