If you’re vegan and recently found out you are pregnant, you might be wondering whether you need to start taking specific vegan pregnancy supplements.
When I became pregnant with my daughter, I automatically started taking the most well-known brand of pregnancy supplements. But I didn’t realise that they were vegetarian when I was vegan.
I wish I’d done more research into what vegan pregnancy supplements were available, what vitamins I actually needed to supplement during my pregnancy and which were the best quality.
In this article I’ll run through which vitamins you should consider supplementing during your vegan pregnancy. I’ll also recommend some high-quality vitamins to put on your shopping list.
If you’re still in the TTC place and here for prenatals, check out my article on how to improve egg quality.
BABY! This is a reusable block, so whatever edits you make in it will apply everywhere it is used. If you want to remove this disclaimer from a post then be careful to delete the parent block (type ‘Reusable Block’ – icon is lego brick), and not to delete the group, image and/or the paragraph blocks (cos then they’ll be deleted from every instance of the reusable block).
Disclaimer: This post contains ethical affiliate links that I genuinely recommend. I may receive a small percentage of any purchases you make as a result of clicking those links. This comes at no extra cost to you and helps me to run this site. Read my full disclosure
what pregnancy supplements do vegans need?
Here are some of the essential nutrients that vegans struggle to consume in sufficient quantities:
Vitamin B12 (2.2mcg daily)
Vegan diets are almost completely without vitamin B12 since it is found almost exclusively in animal products such as fish, poultry and eggs.
It is present in some vegan-friendly foods such as nutritional yeast or fortified milks, cereals and spreads, but to get the full recommended daily dose even for a non-pregnant human you’d need to eat a LOT of nutritional yeast and Marmite…!
Calcium (1200mcg daily)
Getting enough calcium is crucial during pregnancy. Your growing baby will literally take the calcium out of your bones if they’re not getting enough to develop theirs.
This is particularly a risk during the last three months of pregnancy. Meanwhile, calcium deficiency during pregnancy can also increase the mother’s risk of preeclampsia as well as poor bone health in both mother and baby.
Whilst a whole-foods vegan diet can naturally contain plenty of calcium, one large scale study into nutrient levels on different diets found that calcium levels were lowest among vegans. For this reason, taking an additional calcium supplement while growing a vegan baby is something you should consider.
It is important to note that the proper absorption of calcium relies on sufficient levels of vitamin D (more on that vitamin shortly).
Choline (450mcg daily)
Choline isn’t usually one of the big headlines of vegan diets (when were you last asked by an omnivore where you get your choline from?!). However, it’s a vital nutrient and plant foods only contain minuscule amounts of it. Meanwhile, all pregnant women are especially particularly to being deficient in it.
Choline is essential for the development of your baby’s nervous system and brain. Large amounts of it are delivered to the growing foetus through the placenta, suggesting it is one of the most crucial nutrients during pregnancy.
Vitamin D (10mcg daily)
Whatever their diet, many women have low vitamin D levels during pregnancy. Living in the UK or Northern Europe means that vitamin D intake from the sun is particularly hard to come by from September through to March. For that reason, all adults are recommended by the NHS to take a supplement during these months.
In the context of pregnancy, insufficient levels of vitamin D may increase the mother’s risk of preeclampsia, low birth weight, and pregnancy loss. It’s also an important nutrient for helping the body absorb calcium, so vitamin D deficiency compromises your ability to get enough calcium too.
Vegans and vegetarians are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency since it is not found naturally in any plant-based foods.
One thing I didn’t realise when I was pregnant was that some vitamin D supplements aren’t actually vegan-friendly since they can be derived from animal by-products. Most vegans are fierce label-checkers anyway but just in case, make sure you always check your supplement’s label to ensure it is definitely vegan-friendly.
Most people on a vegan or plant based diet know that there are plenty of plants that contain iron, such as leafy green vegetables, dark red berries and some nuts. However the body doesn’t absorb the iron in plant foods (non-heme iron) as well as it does the iron in animal products (heme iron).
It is very important that you do not supplement iron in addition to a multivitamin unless you have been told to do so by your doctor. Excess amounts of iron can cause problems during pregnancy too, including preterm labour, low birth rate and high maternal blood pressure. Please just keep adding iron-rich foods to your plant-based diet and consult your healthcare provider if you are concerned about iron deficiency.
Iodine (150-249mcg daily)
Iodine is another crucial nutrient that rarely makes headlines, yet many adults are unknowingly deficient in. It is naturally found in seafood and iodised salt, which many people don’t consume.
If you are on a vegan diet and don’t consume iodised salt, seaweed, or iodine supplements, you are likely to not be getting enough of this nutrient. Iodine insufficiency in pregnancy can result in hyperthyroidism in mother and baby, and poor cognitive development for the infant throughout childhood.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Unless you’re eating chia seeds by the bucket-load, vegan diets tend to contain only low levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These two omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important for your baby’s eyes, brain, and nervous system development.
Protein 70-100g daily
I’m sorry, I know this nutrient is the bane of every vegan’s life. How many times have you been asked where you get your protein from?! 🙄 But even if protein isn’t the be-all and end-all that omnivores make it out to be, it’s still important. It also gains additional importance when you’re pregnant as insufficient protein intake may slow your baby’s growth and physical development.
Although protein is relatively easy to get in vegan diet, plant-based protein is more difficult to digest than animal protein. This has the effect of raising your daily protein requirements by around 10% from that of an omnivore. Meanwhile, pregnancy increases protein requirements by 10% so it’s definitely something to be aware of during a vegan pregnancy.
Zinc (12mg daily)
As with protein, plant-based zinc is more difficult to absorb than zinc found in animal products. That means daily zinc requirements also increase for vegetarians and vegans.
Most women on any diet don’t get enough zinc during pregnancy, and deficiencies may result in low birth weight, preterm birth or foetal loss.
what pregnancy supplements are essential for vegans?
It’s recommended that ALL pregnant women take both a folic acid (or folate) supplement amounting to 400mg and a vitamin D supplement.
You should take folate every day up to at least 12 weeks of pregnancy in order to help protect against neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Since most prenatal multivitamins only include the minimum 400mg, you’ll need to top it up with an extra supplement such as this one.
Important note: in recent years there has been some speculation in the natural pregnancy movement that folic acid is related to an increase in tongue-tie in newborn babies. There is absolutely no evidence to support this and there are no published research papers demonstrating a link between folic acid supplements and tongue-tie and this site therefore strongly supports the NHS recommendations to take one.
If you’re concerned about your intake of nutrients and would like to start incorporating more vitamins and minerals into your daily diet, check out my free vegan pregnancy nutrient guide below!
Disclaimer: Please always make sure you are in full communication with your healthcare provider when taking any supplements.
the best vegan pregnancy supplements available in the UK in 2023
Now you know the most important nutrients to be aware of in your vegan pregnancy, here are the best vegan pregnancy supplements available in the UK. They have been chosen for their quality, vegan credentials and suitability for pregnancy.
Best Overall Multivitamin: Ritual
For a premium vegan and non-GMO pregnancy multivitamin, Ritual’s Essential Prenatal is the top choice. It is also the only vegan pregnancy supplement I’ve managed to find that incorporates your daily source of omega 3 DHA
- 30 capsules (1 capsule per day = two weeks supply)
- Provides 1000mcg of folate, which is easier for the body to absorb than the synthetic equivalent, folic acid
- Includes 2000IU vegan vitamin D3 and 350mg DHA
- Non-GMO verified
- Free from artificial colourants
- Free from gluten and other major food allergens
- Rigorous approach to sourcing all-natural inrgedients
Ritual prenatals also have a good reputation for being easier to handle if you suffer from heavy morning sickness. This is likely due to the addition of 32mg magnesium and lower iron (18mg).
Best Prenatal For Morning Sickness: Inessa Pregnancy Multinutrient
While at the higher end of the range in terms of investment, Inessa is one of the best vegan supplements for pregnancy that is also great for mothers suffering with morning sickness. Benefits include:
- 60 veg-caps (2 x caps per day = 2 months supply)
- Contains natural folate instead of synthetic folic acid
- 100% vegan and Vegan Society registered
- Meets strict European safety standards for pregnancy
- Natural iron for gentle digestion
- Now with ginger for nausea relief
- Contains VitaCholine
- Free from common allergens, fillers, binders and colourants
- £5 off with my referral code
Easiest to find: Pregnacare Gummies
If your main priority with vegan pregnancy supplements is to be able to get hold of them easily then Pregnacare Gummies are for you. They’re made by the UK’s largest vitamin and supplement company.
You’ll find they are readily available at pharmacies, high street health food stores, Superdrug and larger branches of Tescos.
- 60 vegan gummies (2 x gummies per day = one months supply)
- Includes the recommended 400mcg folic acid
- A further 16 nutrients including B12 and zinc
- Vegan Vitamin D at the recommended dose of 10μg
- Lower levels of iron than other multivitamins to reduce morning sickness
- Not tested on animals
most nutrients: Veganicity Pregnancy Essentials
Trusted and completely vegan company Veganicity have an excellent pregnancy multivitamin. It is also one of the best value prenatal supplements available whilst still maintaining high quality.
Other features include:
- 60 tablets (1-2 tablets a day = one to two months supply)
- 25 major nutrients including beta carotene, vitamins C, D3 (from lichen) and E, B complex, minerals, folic acid and vitamin K2
- Easy to swallow
- Made by a 100% vegan company
- No animal testing
- Fully recyclable packaging
- Free from gluten, nuts, wheat and soya
best folate only: Solgar 400mg
If you don’t want to take a multivitamin but still get the essentials, Solgar do an excellent folate supplement.
All pregnancy women are advised to take folic acid every day, but this is a synthetic version of folate. Folate is the “body ready” version and is easier for the body to absorb than folic acid.
- 100 tablets/(1 tablet a day = 100 day supply
- 400mg high-quality Metafolin® folate
- Wheat & Dairy Free
- Suitable for Vegans
- Certified Gluten Free
best vitamin D2 only: Holland & Barrett
The other essential for anyone not wanting to take a pregnancy multivitamin is D2. Holland & Barrett make an excellent vegan Vitamin D supplement with the following features:
- 90 tablets/3 months supply
- 3000iu vegan Vitamin D
- Specially formulated with vegans in mind
- Recycled packaging
best omega 3: Naturelo Vegan DHA
Omega-3 fatty acids are hard to find in vegan pregnancy supplements, but Naturelo have a fantastic DHA supplement made from algae oil.
- 60 vegan capsules (two caps per day = one months supply)
- 800mg of DHA in each gelatine-free capsule
- No GMOs
- No Soy
- No Gluten
- No colouring, preservatives or flavouring
Frequently Asked Questions
is it healthy to be vegan while pregnant?
It is perfectly possible to have a safe and healthy pregnancy on a vegan diet. In fact, many risk factors around food during pregnancy are automatically removed. For example, you’re already avoiding seafood and blue cheese, so you don’t need to think about those.
In terms of the research, a 2019 study into vegetarian and vegan diets during pregnancy found that a balanced plant-based diet may help prevent poor pregnancy outcomes.
The key word here, however, is BALANCED diet. I’m sure you know that there are healthy vegans and unhealthy vegans, and the same is true of pregnant vegans. That study concluded that, “plant-based diets during pregnancy…require a strong awareness for a complete intake of essential key nutrients and vitamin supplements”
So, while a vegan diet in pregnancy is not unsafe simply because it’s vegan, it can be unsafe if you’re not conscious of your nutritional intake. Take a look at my post on how to have a healthy vegan pregnancy for more information.
what are the risks of having a vegan pregnancy?
Nutrition experts across the world, including the British Dietetic Association and the United States Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have confirmed the safety of well-planned vegan diets for pregnancy. However, diets that eliminate all animal products do reduce the presence of some nutrients that are vital to a healthy pregnancy.
I’ve seen some vegans claim that a plant-based diet easily and naturally contains all daily nutrient requirements, making vitamin supplements unnecessary. However there is very little science to back this position up.
what vitamins should you not take during pregnancy?
There are some vitamins and supplements that are not safe to take during pregnancy. These are:
|Vitamin A||Some prenatal vitamins contain beta carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A – this is absolutely fine. However, the NHS states that too much additional Vitamin A supplementation in the form of retinol can harm your baby.|
|Vitamin E||Despite being an important nutrient, supplementation during pregnancy may increase the risk of abdominal pain and rupture of the amniotic sack|
|Black Cohosh||Some women take this supplement to aid uterine health and reduce menstrual cramps. It is not safe to take this herb during pregnancy, as it can cause uterine contractions, which could lead to a premature labour|
|Goldenseal||Not a common supplement but used to treat respiratory and bowel problems. Goldenseal contains berberine, which has been shown to worsen jaundice in infants. It can lead to a rare type of brain damage called kernicterus, which sadly can be fatal|
|Dong Quai||This Chinese herb can lead to premature labour through uterine contractions or even pregnancy loss|
|Yohimbe||This traditional African herb should never be taken by pregnant women. It has been associated with dangerous conditions including high blood pressure, heart attacks, and seizures|
|Others||Angelica; blue cohosh; ephedra; mugwort; pennyroyal; red clover; saw palmetto; tansy; yarrow; wormwood|
I hope you have found my vegan prenatal supplements guide useful. Please download my FREE guide to vegan pregnancy nutrients below to help you get the very best nutrition at this special time.
Meanwhile I wish you a happy and healthy pregnancy and a joyful experience birthing your new baby.