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Your Vegetarian Pregnancy

A Month-by-Month Guide to Health and Nutrition
By Holly Roberts

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Introduction

For as long as I can remember, I never liked to eat meat. It was at the age of thirteen that I became inspired to be a physician and to cease eating the flesh of other animals. Both concepts occurred to me when I awoke after having my appendix removed. I recognized that the doctor looking over my bed had saved my life, and I decided that someday, I too would save lives. I also truly appreciated the sanctity of life and resolved that I would seek to live my life without taking the life of any other creature.

I did not realize how circuitous my journey to become a physician would be. The journey took me from Brooklyn College in New York City to Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri. It was within this altruistic and holistic medical school environment that I was taught that doctors do not heal patients, but are facilitators in their healing process. The power to heal lies within each individual. I was taught that all are blessed with the natural abilities to cure most diseases themselves but must make wise health choices throughout life, lest their natural healing modalities become depleted.

After I graduated from medical school, my quest for knowledge and training took me to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Tennessee. I left residency to work at a Cuban refugee clinic and then to become a medical missionary in Honduras, Mexico, and Peru. Three days after returning from Peru, I met my husband-to-be. We were soon blessed with three daughters. I completed obstetrics residency and trained in advanced gynecologic cancer surgery in New York and Maryland. I opened a medical practice in New Jersey, in which I delivered more than five thousand babies and cared for several thousand other pregnant women. My ability to witness so many births was a spiritual blessing. Through those many years and many births, I always knew that I was on a mission to reach an even greater number of women, to share my experience and knowledge with them.

This book is for every woman contemplating pregnancy while striving for the best of health and showing the greatest mercy to others. The information it contains will help you safely, authoritatively, and wisely fulfill your dreams of giving birth to a strong, healthy child while adhering to a compassionate and healthy lifestyle. Whether you are decreasing your intake of red meat, limiting your intake of dairy products, or fully committed to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, there is an abundance of valuable information within this book that will help you optimize your baby's and your health during your pregnancy.

Having been a vegetarian, a physician, and a mother, each for over twenty-five years, I've thought about most of the questions you are now facing. When I was carrying my own children I asked these questions, but there were no answers. After years of studying nutrition, studying medicine, and gaining obstetric experience, I have learned how to guide and educate young women who share the same quest for answers about diet and health that engaged me.

The answers to many of your questions do not lie conveniently in medical journals. Although the basis for the knowledge is there, the complete answers can be found only at a deeper level of consciousness. You will obtain this knowledge as you learn about creation, birth, health, and nutrition. By striving to achieve a peaceful and wise lifestyle and being open-minded to new concepts, you will increase your chances of finding that humane and healthy life you so desire. By combining the medical knowledge you find here with your own maternal intuition, you will be able to answer each and every question about your health during pregnancy. I know that our journey together will benefit you and your baby. My best wishes are with you both.

IS THIS BOOK RIGHT FOR ME?

If you are browsing through this book, you will probably think about how your diet affects your health and might affect your tiny fetus. You may have recognized already that the typical American meat-based diet may not truly be the best diet for your baby or yourself. Because you have strayed from the dietary norm, I know you make your own choices. I hope to share my medical knowledge with you so you can continue to make your own choices -- but make them at a higher level of medical and nutritional expertise.

You may already be among the peripheral group termed "vegetarians," and although you may or may not be among the strictest of the group, you are a thinker, a humanitarian, and a person with purpose. As you begin to prepare for your vegetarian pregnancy, it is important that you know which type of vegetarian lifestyle best suits your health needs and ethical choices. I will review the basic types of vegetarian lifestyles to help you discern which group applies to you.

An individual decreasing meat in her diet: You may be among the large and growing percentage of people moving toward a semi-vegetarian diet. You may be limiting your meat intake to fewer portions, may still eat fish or poultry or both, or may have completely eliminated red meat. Although yours is not a totally vegetarian diet, it warrants serious consideration during pregnancy. You definitely need the same nutritional knowledge for yourself and your unborn baby as does any other type of vegetarian. Also, you may be approaching a full vegetarian diet, and the completion of that path might occur before the end of your pregnancy.

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: If you are a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, you do not eat beef, pork, fish, or poultry. Basically, you do not believe in eating the body of any animal or in taking the life of any animal. You may, however, eat products derived from animals, including eggs and dairy products -- milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt. You are among a varied group of individuals. Some lacto-ovo-vegetarians believe in eating animal-derived products as long as the animal has not lost its life. Other lacto-ovo-vegetarians do not wish to eat the actual animal-derived food for specific health reasons, such as decreasing cholesterol or avoiding the pesticides, antibiotics, and synthetic hormones stored in animal fat. Because most eggs are not fertilized and would never have become chickens, lacto-ovo-vegetarians may not find the eating of eggs morally offensive, although most would prefer eggs from noncaged or free-roaming chickens. Most people who are lacto-ovo-vegetarians usually choose this diet for a combination of philosophical, humanitarian, and health reasons.

Vegan: Vegans are the purest vegetarians. If you are vegan, you avoid consumption of all animal-derived products. You will not eat any meat, fish, fowl, eggs, or dairy products. Your healthy diet consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, grains, and seeds and is low in fats but high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Because present-day farming techniques have depleted the soil of nutrients, you may need to pay closer attention to your diet to obtain sufficient quantities of vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are not abundantly available in foods of plant origin. However, it is actually quite simple for you as a vegan to obtain adequate amounts of these nutrients. Many vegans have adopted a lifestyle in which their clothing, shoes, and cosmetics do not contribute to animal cruelty.

Macrobiotic vegetarian: If you follow a macrobiotic diet, you believe that eating a diet consisting of whole grains is superior physically and philosophically. You may also believe that the grains and plants you eat should vary with the seasons of the year and with the place in which you reside and should be indigenous to the area in which you live. Macrobiotics is not just a diet; it is a philosophy and a lifestyle based on principles of balance and harmony between nature and the universe. There is a strong Asian influence in the macrobiotic lifestyle, reflecting the principles of yin and yang. Because a macrobiotic diet is low in fats and animal products and high in nuts, grains, and seeds, you may have chosen this diet to attain a healthier lifestyle.

Copyright © 2003 by Holly Roberts, D.O., FACOG

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