My vegan pregnancy and natural birth experience
[Note: I recently did another article on The Alternative that contains the success stories of many Indian vegan pregnancies and veganly raised babies and also debunks many misconceptions, and substantiates that vegan babies and pregnancies are not just perfectly safe, but quite beneficial health-wise. Please read it here.]
I have often been asked to share the experience of my natural and vegan pregnancy. I had been vegan over 2 years before pregnancy, so, without a doubt, my pregnancy was going to be vegan too. And, I am very glad to be yet another person to have shattered many nutritional myths created by vested interests about veganism during this period.
Here’s how awesome being vegan has been for my pregnancy and my baby’s health:
- I gained 18 kg of weight during 9 months of pregnancy.
- My son, Shaurya, was born with 3.75 kg of weight (considered extremely healthy).
- My calcium and protein levels were excellent throughout the pregnancy, without any supplements (except for 15-20 days), as detailed below.
- I had a completely natural delivery with no external induction, no cut or stitches, no pain management through epidural!
- To top it all, my postdelivery recovery was super-smooth! Since my pregnancy diet was devoid of any animal (i.e. unhealthy) fat, I could shed as much as 16kg within first 3 months itself without any kind of exercises whatsoever! Hence, I never needed to buy a new pair of jeans or any other clothes :).
- Within a week, I was able to work my way around the house. After the first 3 months, my health had improved so much that without much help from anyone except Pulkit, I was able to do all multi-tasking in the house, start my work from home, write articles, feed Shaurya and rock him to sleep – all this without any body pain at all!
- I have been able to breastfeed Shaurya exclusively for 6.5 months (and along with solids thereafter).
- Other than minor cold, my 9 month old little monster hasn’t had a single health problem, and has needed absolutely no medicine.
Calcium and protein myths!
Women are in general advised to have more unsaturated fat and very less saturated fat during pregnancy, and quite rightly so. Yet, when it comes to calcium and protein, everything is forgotten. These two components somehow manage to freak out almost everyone so much that they are ready to stuff themselves with animal foods containing saturated fats, cholesterol, artificial/natural hormones and what not! Even then, they are unable to get rid of their fear of calcium, so they also load themselves with calcium supplements for 7 months of pregnancy! One would think that now the calcium crisis should be over, but nah, I have come across many women who suffered low calcium issues even after following all the above! Almost all women get episiotomy stitches (low protein levels are primarily responsible for perineal tearing.)
There are multiple reasons why taking animal milk (for calcium and in general) is a bad idea. Besides the huge amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, animal foods are entirely fiber-less. Protein in the animal food, when absorbed as amino acids, results in an acidic reaction in the body. In order to keep body pH alkaline, minerals such as calcium and magnesium are leached out of our body! Moreover, there are plenty of plant based calcium rich foods. The picture below lists 20 of them.
If one consumes enough calories, one is bound to get enough protein, for protein is one of the basic building blocks of any food. And women are supposed to consume higher calories during pregnancy. In fact, the only protein rich food that I included in my daily routine was a bowl of sprouts or chana (cheakpea). It is said that low protein results in weak pelvic muscles, which in turn lead to vaginal tearing (during delivery) that requires stitches. Guess what – I had virtually no vaginal tearing and did not require any stitches at all, which is according to doctors is rare! So, I must have done something right! :)
My pregnancy diet plan
Let me now come to the question I have been asked the most: My diet chart during 9 months of pregnancy!
I followed a healthy vegan diet overall (with some lapses on sugar), avoiding all the refined foods (such as white sugar, white rice, white flour etc), consuming mostly home-cooked food with minimal or no oil. I avoided supplements (with small exceptions). Due to loss of appetite in the 3rd and 4th month, I could hardly eat much food, and supplement myself nutritionally. Hence, I took vegan multi-vitamin supplements for 15-20 days. I also took iron supplements during last 2 months and vegan calcium supplements during the last 15 days. Although in general I am not against supplements if they come from plant based sources, I have always believed that healthy food should be the primary source for any nutritional needs. Of course, if one is not able to eat healthy food due to some reasons, supplements are the only alternatives sometimes. Here’s the detailed diet chart that I followed. In order to have anything and everything vegan, here are some excellent practical tips to follow.
My natural birth experience
I was also fortunate enough to find the best care provider in Healthy Mother Natural Birthing Center. Dr. Vijaya Krishan, an excellent mid-wife, provided all the support needed for the kind of natural birth that I was looking for. She was also extremely supportive of my being vegan. Her skills and commitment to natural birthing played an important role in my delivery. In the last month Shaurya decided to shift into posterior position with his skull pressing on my spine, which was the reason I ended up with 2 days of pre-labour, 2 days of active labour, one day of hard back labour and 4 hours of pushing! Had it not been for loving hubby Pulkit and Vijaya, I might have had to go with the dreaded C-section! Instead, I had a completely natural delivery without any pain induction, epidural or episiotomy! It was just the way I wanted it to be! Read more here about my natural birthing experience.
Some useful resources to explore further on veganism: