Experts point out that expectant mothers should have well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets for healthful pregnancies.
According to the American Dietetic Association, "well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence."
While vitamin B12 deficiency may increase the risk for neural tube defects, experts from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) suggest that requirements can be met with fortified foods or any common multivitamin.
"Women who follow vegan diets not only have healthy pregnancies, they are often healthier than moms who consume meat," said Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., staff dietitian with PCRM.
"By eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other healthful vegetarian foods and including breakfast cereals or other foods fortified with vitamin B12, mothers and their children can obtain all the nutrients they need to thrive," the expert added.
During the study, the researchers analyzed the stored blood samples originally collected during pregnancy from three groups of Irish women between 1983 and 1990.
The analyzes of vegetarians' breast milk show that the levels of environmental contaminants in milk are much lower than in non-vegetarians.
Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher levels of fiber, folate, and cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.