Like most expectant mothers, my pre and postnatal nutrition is very important to me. Last fall, I started reading about nutritional requirements for a healthy pregnancy. I was already taking some of these vitamins on a fairly regular basis before (such as B12, DHA, and Iron), so it was really only a matter of adding a few things to my regime to round it out.
I started by reading the Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal. This is a quick read, but it has most of the info I was looking for in a concise, friendly writing style. Sayward talks about the key aspects of prenatal nutrition such as protein requirements (70g per day), iron, calcium, B12, Folate, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and other aspects of pregnancy health.
Once I had this info, I corroborated it with other sources online and finally, with my family physician and OB. I was happy to have complete support from my physicians for my vegan pregnancy. (In case there is any doubt: yes, it’s totally possible to have a healthy, balanced vegan pregnancy if that’s your goal; it just takes planning). In the end, I’m glad I figured out a system that works well for me and I haven’t had any side effects from the supplements (like constipation from iron pills) to speak of.
So in addition to a healthy diet, here are the supplements I’m taking.
Mega Food Baby & Me Prenatal Supplement (Herb Free)
My friend turned me onto this whole foods prenatal supplement and I’m so glad she did. Since it’s made with whole foods rather than synthetic vitamins, the dose is quite large (4 pills a day) and it’s one of the more expensive prenatal supplements on the market. I try to space the 4 pills out as much as possible over the course of the day. The only drawback to this supplement is that it tastes pretty horrible and I struggled to get them down during the first trimester. The good news is that I can take these on an empty stomach and they have never once given me nausea after consuming!
Natural Factors B12 (1000 mcg)
B12 is not found in the vegan diet naturally so it’s essential to make sure your intake is consistent. I take about 4 pills a week. My B12 levels are measured a couple times per year to make sure I’m on track. My 32 week blood work showed excellent levels of B12!
Solgar Gentle Iron (25 mg – Iron Bisglycinate)
This is my all-time favourite iron supplement and it’s one of the only iron supplements I’ve tried that doesn’t give me bad stomach pain (I can even take it on an empty stomach!) or constipate me. I take about 3-4 pills per week. My Baby & Me prenatal supplement provides me with an additional 18mg of iron per day and I also eat plant-based sources of iron too. I recently had prenatal blood work done and my iron levels are doing great which is very reassuring. Be sure to take iron with a bit of Vitamin C (such as citrus fruit) to help it absorb better. The RDA for iron during pregnancy is 27-30mg.
Update: In the 2nd trimester, I started taking 1 iron pill per day and in the 3rd trimester I bumped it up to two pills per day due to increased iron needs. A blood test around 32 weeks showed that my iron was at the low end of the normal range so I wanted to make sure it didn’t dip any lower during the 3rd trimester. I found taking 2 iron pills per day backed me up a bit, so I started taking one 150mg magnesium pill each day to offset this. Worked nicely!
This source of Vitamin D3 is not vegan as it’s lanolin-based (a fat found on sheep’s wool), but vegan D3 drops do exist. The only problem is that I haven’t been able to find a vegan D3 drops in Canada. Nordic Naturals makes Vegan D3, but they don’t ship to Canada (neither does Amazon.com) and I haven’t found it in stores yet. If anyone knows where to source this in Canada, please leave a comment below. I really want to be able to find the oil drops as they are so easy to take and I don’t want to take more pills. (Side note: Vitamin D2 is vegan, however it’s said to be only 60% effective as D3 so I’m sticking with D3 during my pregnancy just to be sure.)
A calcium supplement is necessary for me because the Baby & Me supplement only has 75mg of calcium. My body seems to digest these fine, but I don’t like that each pill only has 150 mg calcium each. So I’m taking about 4-5 per day and getting the rest from my diet. I might switch to a different brand that has 350mg of calcium each so I only have to take 2 a day in addition to what I get in my diet. (side note: Calcium-fortified orange juice and tofu prepared with calcium sulfate and magnesium chloride are both high in calcium, in addition to other vegan foods.) You can also open these pills up and mix the powder into juice or water, but drinking sand is not my cup of tea so I don’t tend to do that. hah. The RDA during pregnancy for calcium is 1,000 mg.
DHA is a form of long chain omega-3 fatty acid and it’s very important for brain development and vision. This DHA supplement is a plant-based, sustainable alternative to fish oil and it’s completely vegan. Many people think that fish make their own DHA, but they actually get it from feeding off green algae. I figure why not just get it directly from the source? I take 1/2-1 tablespoon per day which provides me with 300-600 mg of DHA per day.
Update: When my supply runs out I’m going to try a new brand I heard about which is a vegan DHA and EPA oil by Dr. Fuhrman.
So those are my prenatal supplements! Please keep in mind that this post is not meant to be nutritional advice for your own pregnancy – it’s simply what is working for me right now. I always recommend that you speak with your physician/health care provider to find a plan that will work for you!