Plant-based Parental Nutrition: ​ Effects on Fertility and Pregnancy

How important is parental nutrition?

Absolutely critical! We’ve had some big epidemiology studies that collected huge amounts of data from diabetic, obese mums, and those who suffered the great famine period, collectively showing that overnutrition, undernutrition or a poorly diversified diet are associated with epigenetic changes and lifelong consequences in the offspring.

intrauterine exposure maternal nutrition effect
(Hijj et al., 2014 Epigenetics and life-long consequences of an adverse nutritional and diabetic intrauterine environment)

Is a vegan diet safe for pregnancy?

Absolutely yes if properly planned, with attention to meal diversity, food quality, supplementation, and hydration. Note that we are talking about a whole-food plant-based diet, not one that is predominantly processed vegan products.

In fact, there are a number of benefits to a plant-rich diet for pregnancy:

  • Plant-rich diet reduces the risk of Preeclampsia (Pregnancy-induced Hypertension), insulin resistance and gestational diabetes mellites, chronic kidney diseases, rate of caesarean delivery, postpartum depression, neonatal and maternal mortality and frequency of calf cramps (Frederick et al., 2005, Ley et al., 2011Pistollato et al., 2015)

 

  • A plant-based diet pre-conception and during pregnancy lowers a number of pediatric diseases (eg.  wheeze, asthma, and eczema, diabetes,  orofacial clefts), whereas low pre-conceptional intakes of plant-based nutrients were associated with a two- to five-fold increase in spina bifida risk (Krapels et al, 2004).

 

  • Higher intakes of protein and calories by the mother were not associated with offspring birth weight, but green leafy vegetables and fruits were (Rao et al., 2001)

 

  • Consuming a high-calorie, high-protein Western-style diet has an increased risk for low birth weight for gestational age compared to fewer calories and greater quantities of plant foods (Pistollato et al., 2015)

How early should I start planning my nutrition for pregnancy?

This is such an important question that is not asked often enough. Pre-conception nutrition is actually so important. Because pregnancy increases your need for a number of vital vitamins and minerals, you want to make sure they are high before you get pregnant! You definitely want to get a blood test done to see if you will dip into deficient levels of iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, iodine and other micronutrients.

Most women also start folic acid supplementation too late with respect to the prevention of neural tube defects. It is important to start from 1 month before pregnancy and keep supplementing throughout the first 2–3 months of pregnancy.

vegan healthy food

 

Is daddy’s nutrition important?

Yes, yes and YES! Having a baby is a 2 people job, including when it comes to healthy eating.

Epigenetic inheritance can occur when parents are exposed to multiple environmental insults including nutritional stress, psychological stress, toxins and drug exposure.​ A high-fat diet has been shown to modify the sperm epigenetic signals, which may drive offspring health and will initiate the transmission of metabolic abnormalities in future generations (Fullston et al., 2013). 

Male mice fed a western diet (high fat and high sugar diet) exhibited an altered sperm miRNA profile associated with an increase in metabolic disorders in their offspring (Grandjean et al., 2015). 

pregnancy dad nutrition

How do I eat and live the best way for myself and my future baby?

There is certainly a lot to you can do to optimize your diet and lifestyle. A well planned plant-based diet will set you up for vitality and a healthy pregnancy.

If you would like to learn all about it, down to every nutrient and all the latest research, then the upcoming one day Vegan Plant-based Nutrition & Wellness Symposium is something you don’t want to miss out on! It will be held in Brisbane on 26 October, with 3 amazing speakers lined up to cover vegan whole-food plant-based nutrition, minimizing health risks of radiation, wifi, 5G, as well as the roles of healthy nutrition & lifestyle on our gut microbiome, fertility and offspring health.

Take actions for you health and your future at this research-based educational event!

vegan nutrition workshop

About the author
healthy vegan palette writer Rainie

Rainie is a health, fitness and nutrition enthusiastic. She has a bachelor of Biomedical Sciences (Class I Honours) and a special interest for the roles of parental nutrition on fertility, pregnancy and newborn health. Rainie is now using the research skills she learned in the science degree to bring evidence-based nutrition practice to more health-conscious people.

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