Are Vegan and Vegetarian Diets Safe During Pregnancy?
Vegan and vegetarian diets are plant-based diets. They are gaining popularity as people try to make better choices in terms of their health when it comes to food. Plants, in general, are a great choice, especially colorful plants, because they tend to be more nutrient-dense. Plant-based diets have been linked to a number of health benefits, such as lower body mass index and lower rates of obesity and diabetes, as well as conferring some benefits. Certainly, vegan and vegetarian diets have higher amounts of certain nutrients like magnesium, folate, and fiber, all of which are generally consumed in very low quantities in Western diets.
@sukhbir Focusing on pregnancy, there are two important papers to note. The first, which got me very interested in this issue, was a series of pooled case reports by Drs Dror and Allen in 2008. They looked at 30 cases of severe vitamin B12 deficiency during pregnancy in vegan women as well as in women with pernicious anemia. Among the 30 vegan women who had B12 deficiency during pregnancy, about 60% of their offspring had severe developmental delays and 37% had cerebral atrophy. With repletion, many of the neurologic symptoms in the infants improved right away, but over time, 50% of the infants still had developmental delays even with repletion of B12. Certainly there can be long-standing effects of B12 deficiency. The clinical importance of this is to partner with our patients who are eating plant-based diets and ensure that they have adequate levels of vitamin B12, as well as iron, zinc, and long-chain omega-3 fats during pregnancy.