Friday, 6 September 2013

Eating McDonald's? There Are Better Ways to Nourish Your Pregnancy

A rather heart-warming story hit the headlines the other day. It turns out, after years of trying to fall pregnant, a vegetarian undergoing IVF made a switch to eating meat, and later produced triplets. Few things are more exciting than reading that someone has found IVF success, as infertility can only be described as gut wrenching for those trying to conceive.

However, once again, the media has made a fantastic job of jumping all over this story and presenting it as some form of causal relationship. If you were to take Daily Mail headlines seriously, you would be left believing that the route to a multiples pregnancy is daily McDonald's breakfasts and a dose of IVF. While getting protein in preparation for and during your pregnancy is wise, McDonald's isn't quite the way to do it. More to the point, vegetarians and vegans do not need to begin rushing to the meat aisle in order to find fertility success.

Getting protein during pregnancy is about more than providing your body with the building blocks it needs to perform biological processes. Many of the meat products the carnivores among us eat are home to Vitamin B12, iron, and Vitamin D. However, that doesn't mean you cannot get these same nutrients from plant-based sources.

Vegetarian pregnant women can continue with their usual dietary outlooks if they are taking a healthy approach in the first place. Fortunately, this is something the majority of vegetarians and vegans already achieve. It is only when you begin taking a laissez faire approach to either dietary choices that you are at risk of not nourishing yourself or your foetus.

The NHS offers some great advice on what you should aim to eat. A diet rich in pulses, dark green vegetables, and wholemeal bread can provide iron. Spreading your toast with marmite and drinking fortified soya milk can help you get Vitamin B12. Regardless of your diet, you need to take a Vitamin D supplement during pregnancy and breastfeeding anyway. In short, it is perfectly possible to eat a vegetarian and vegan diet for a successful pregnancy and great fertility outcomes.

It is sort of disheartening when even slightly more respectable newspapers—such as The Telegraph—begin rolling out headlines like "Vegetarian told she couldn't have children has triplets after eating meat". This certainly isn't the scientific standard we've come to expect of British broadsheets. However, NHS Choices reported yesterday that over 50% of newspaper stories focusing on medical innovations are purposefully misleading. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that a journalist has taken an anecdotal situation and touted it as scientific evidence.

It is important for the naysayers of a vegetarian diet to recognise that proteins are macronutrients. You are not going to eat a chicken breast and get your proteins immediately. Instead, you consume various amino acid building blocks that eventually contribute to protein synthesis in the body. When eating a vegetarian diet, this is feasible. However, you do have to consume more calories to get there. Like many other aspects of pregnancy, this is a choice unique to the mother and her lifestyle choices.

So, contrary to the commenters in The Telegraph article throwing about words like enzymes and micronutrients—which is effectively the medical equivalent of waving your hands sarcastically and going woooo, quite patronisingly hyperbolic—vegetarians and vegans are not going to kill themselves or their foetuses. The happy and quite rightly successful lady featuring in this story was most likely struggling due to her combination of endometriosis and PCOS, not her vegetarian diet.

And with that note, we leave the pregnant world of Britain to enjoy what may be one of the last sunny weekends of 2013. On Monday, we are back with pregnancy celebrities galore. Fashion icon Rachel Zoe has somehow managed to disguise a bump for six months. Gwen Stefani may be pregnant once again. Jessica Simpson is demonstrating some beautiful female solidarity by discussing the unfair criticism of Kim Kardashian in her pregnancy. Of course this will be chopped up with maternity wear advice, and maybe a little more science. Otherwise, have a fantastic weekend readers!