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Vegans, vegetarians and pregnancy

02 February 2019
Volume 27 · Issue 2


Increasing numbers of people are choosing to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. What effect does cutting out meat and other animal products have on the pregnant woman and the baby?

In December 2018, the prosperous vegan parents of a toddler, whose diet-related vitamin D deficiency caused her to develop rickets, were arrested in Australia (Chapman, 2018). This follows a UK case in 2014, where the Seventh Day Adventist parents of a 5-month-old baby who died from rickets (his mother was a vegan and his parents' religious views limited medical care) were imprisoned (Brannan et al, 2014).

NHS (2018) advice suggests that ‘vegetarian and vegan mums-to-be need to make sure they get enough iron and vitamin B12, which are mainly found in meat and fish, and vitamin D.’ Perhaps this advice needs to be reinforced, given the apparent popularity of veganism, which is increasingly informed by political and environmental considerations. For example, Martinelli and Berkmaniené (2018: 502) have traced the rise of veganism from ‘inoffensive vegetarians’ to ‘legions of hippies, hipsters, animal advocates […] coinciding with food's central position in social, political and cultural debate’.

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