Fit Pregnancy: prenatal vitamins for vegetarians

I have an issue. I ‘m a vegetarian, a strict one who has been so since I was about fourteen years old. I always determined that once pregnant I would maintain my vegetarian ways. On prior visits to the OBGYN when I’d mentioned I was vegetarian and was considering getting pregnant I was informed by my doctors and midwife that being vegetarian would have no effect on my pregnancy. In fact, the vegetarian lifestyle I lead is considered pretty darn healthy given my cholesterol is 156, for starters.

Anyway, once I found myself in the family way I went to see one of my OBGYNs for an initial exam. We discussed how very vegetarian I am–I eat eggs and dairy so I am a “lacto-ovo vegetarian“, not a vegan. We then discussed how I would get my all important omega-3 fatty acids given I am not a fan of fish. I asked about soy and flax seeds but was informed that while those were good, they were a different kind of omega (5’s?) which meant that they were fine for me but not for my baby who would need the 3’s for spinal and brain development. Fine, I thought, what can we do about this? While I have my reasons for being a vegetarian, I would never, ever, EVER deprive my child of something critical to his/her development. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to. My OBGYN recommended OptiNate for vegetarians. The OptiNate box touts it as “The only prenatal omega-3 (DHA) derived from an all-natural vegetarian source.”

OptiNate is actually two pills. One pill is the standard white horse pill prenatal, accompanied by a second capsule with a gel coating containing the essential omega-3’s. Being a hardcore label reader by nature as it affords me only a few moments of time and offers a lifetime of health by alerting me to all the bad things in what we eat, I immediately noted that although OptiNate is touted as a vegetarian prenatal vitamin it is not, in fact, vegetarian. The gel coating on the omega-3 capsule is made from gelatin. Gelatin comes from cow hooves. Cow hooves are not vegetarian.

Thus, I had a beef with my OBGYN, so to speak. Do they not read the labels on those things? How many other vegetarian mamas like me have been mislead? Since a pregnant woman tends to see her OBGYN nearly as often as her partner, I soon had the opportunity the point out that my OBGYN group was marketing a non-vegetarian prenatal vitamin to vegetarians. Not only that, but it turns out OptiNate is expensive–it cost me more than $40 for a month’s supply–and that gel coating also contains partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Now let’s think a moment. Among the many reasons I am vegetarian the top one is possibly that it’s a HEALTHY lifestyle, meaning by use of very basic common sense I try to avoid things that are not healthy. Hydrogenated things, partially or entirely so, are not healthy.

All my midwife could think to do was condemn marketing.

She had no other truly vegetarian alternative to offer in order for me to get the essential omega-3’s. When it came down to it, I was actually more annoyed by the partially hydrogenated soybean oil than the gelatin. My midwife suggested fish oil. I gagged. She said there was a certain brand known for its good lemony taste I could try if I was unwilling to knowingly feed my body partially hydrogenated anything on a daily basis.

So I bought the fish oil. It’s disgusting. It smells and tastes like lemon pledge. I gag every time I take it, which is daily. Yet, I am satisfied that is has nothing hydrogenated in it because it’s in liquid form.

That said I would love to know if anyone else has faced this dilemma and how it was handled. I know I am not the only vegetarian mama out there, so please let me hear from you!

Author by Jennifer Jordan