Expert says vegans should eat 'small amounts' of meat if trying for a baby

A reproductive biologist has warned that a vegan diet may make it more difficult for women to become pregnant.

Speaking at the Fertility Show, which was held in London at the weekend, Grace Dugdale said: ‘If vegans and vegetarians have not been taking the proper supplements, they may have catch-up work to do rebuilding their body’s stores of these nutrients.’ 

She added that while a diet high in fruit, vegetables and pulses is healthy, cutting out meat nd fish completely could cause problems for women trying to conceive.

Speaking after the event, Grace added: ‘I completely understand the ethical and environmental reasons why people are vegan and people must do what they feel is right for them.

‘But I sometimes tell women trying to conceive who have depleted levels of these nutrients that they would benefit from starting to eat a small amount of meat and fish.’

She says testing levels of vitamins and minerals will tell you if your diet is meeting the nutritional demands of their body. She says vegan patients often have low levels of key nutrients needed for development of the baby.

‘Eggs and dairy contain important nutrients needed for fertility and pregnancy,’ she said.

Rehan Salim, consultant in gynaecology and reproductive medicine at Imperial College Healthcare, also spoke at the show. He said that women wanting to freeze their eggs ‘need protein’, advising them to eat meat and lots of vegetables.

However, the research on this area is certainly mixed, and many dietary deficiencies can be addressed using supplements.

Some studies – including recent research from the UK in 2021 – have found that healthy vegan diets may actually improve your fertility, due to the fact that plant-based diets naturally have less fat than diets that include meat, and weight can impact fertility.

A Harvard School of Public Health study also showed ovulatory infertility was almost 40% more likely in women who ate more animal proteins, compared to vegan women who get most of their protein from nuts, soy, and beans.

If you’re trying to conceive and worried about your diet, speak to your GP for advice that suits your body and your circumstances.

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