Potential Health Concerns Arise for Vegan Diets during Pregnancy, Study Reveals

by Ella

A recent study, published in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, suggests that pregnant women adhering to a vegan diet may face an increased risk of developing preeclampsia and delivering infants with lower birth weights. The research, based on data from over 66,000 pregnancies in Denmark between 1996 and 2002, sheds light on potential considerations for individuals following plant-based diets during pregnancy.

Details from the Study:

The study observed that newborns of mothers practicing a vegan diet exhibited an average weight reduction of 240 grams, approximately 8 to 9 ounces, compared to infants born to omnivorous mothers. The research team emphasizes the need for cautious interpretation due to the limited number of vegan pregnancies in the study, accounting for only 0.03% of the total sample size.


Nutritional Intake and Variations:

Examining dietary patterns, the study highlighted lower protein intake among vegans, along with a noticeable reduction in macronutrient consumption. Researchers acknowledged the need for future studies to focus on characterizing the diets of individuals adhering to vegan or other plant-based diets during pregnancy to establish stronger associations with birth and pregnancy outcomes.


Expert Perspectives:

Dana Hunnes, PhD, a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Health, emphasized the importance of the quality of a vegan diet, stating that it can range from highly processed to whole-food driven. Hunnes suggested that the observed lower birth weights in vegan pregnancies might be linked to higher intake of processed foods. However, she underscored the potential for a healthy vegan diet with proper planning.


Lauri Wright, PhD, President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, expressed surprise at the study’s findings related to preeclampsia. She noted that preeclampsia is often associated with factors not linked to a vegan diet, such as excessive weight gain and inadequate intake of certain vitamins and minerals.


Considerations for Pregnant Women:

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans do not prescribe a specific diet for pregnant women but recommend a nutrient-dense eating pattern. While a vegan diet during pregnancy can offer benefits like a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, experts advise careful planning to ensure adequate protein, vitamin B12, zinc, and other essential nutrients.

Both Hunnes and Wright agreed that a vegan diet can be beneficial but requires meticulous planning. Wright recommended prenatal vitamin supplements, especially for pregnant women following a vegan diet, to meet the increased needs for vitamin D, iron, iodine, and folic acid during pregnancy.


The study sheds light on potential considerations for pregnant women adhering to vegan diets, emphasizing the importance of a well-planned and nutrient-dense approach to ensure the health of both mother and child. As the interest in plant-based diets continues to rise, further research is warranted to provide comprehensive insights into the implications of such dietary choices during pregnancy.



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