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“Vegan in pregnancy – is that even possible?

In the media, you always read about malnutrition and the dangers.

We spoke with expert Carmen Hercegfi about her experiences, as a vegan mother and trained nutritionist.

She not only teaches us better, but also reveals her personal top 5 tips for vegan, expectant mothers at the end.

Carmen Hercegfi (41) is a single mother and lives and works in Hamburg with her sons (14 and 4 years old) and a dog from animal welfare. With her second pregnancy, she hung up her job as a real estate agent, went into training as a holistic nutritionist as well as many continuing education courses to focus on vegan family nutrition.

In 2017, she published her first book, Vegan in Other Circumstances. In the fall of 2019, her second work “Vegan for our offspring” will be published together with nutritionist Anna Maynert. Currently, the lively author is in addition to nutrition counseling, working on books, lectures, as a lecturer and online courses also in Heilpraktikerausbildung.

We met her for an interview and asked her the most important questions about vegan nutrition in, before and after pregnancy.

Carmen's books: available HERE!

How long have you been living vegan and how did it come about that you decided to go vegan?

Carmen Hercegfi: I became aware of acid-base nutrition in 2008, after I had severe health problems. Rheumatism, asthma, constant abdominal pain and intestinal cramps, extreme fatigue and exhaustion plagued me day in and day out. When I was on the verge of a bowel obstruction, I radically changed my habits. It was not difficult for me to give up meat, because I had already lived vegetarian from 1994 to 2001. Giving up milk was also unproblematic, as I had suspected for some time that I could not tolerate it and had experimented with other alternatives. I ate cheese very rarely and only when I was feeling well. However, I found out very quickly that I was worse after that and so this exception was limited to about the first year after the change. Fish, eggs and honey still remained, although rarely. Long stretches were completely vegan. 3 years later I attended a lecture by Rüdiger Dahlke on the subject of Peace Food and suddenly it became clear to me that even exceptions are no longer justifiable. That was 2011. The vegan life extended first to my plate and then gradually continued throughout the apartment. However, I still wear old parts made of leather and wool, even buy them used, because here for me the aspect of sustainability is still in the first place.

Your pregnancy was also completely vegan. How did you prepare for it?

Carmen Hercegfi: Not at all – my pregnancy was completely unplanned. I was in Nigeria at the time and I could hardly eat fresh lettuce at the time for hygienic reasons. But my diet in advance must have been good enough 😉

What did you notice particularly positively at the beginning of your transition?

Carmen Hercegfi: My digestion had normalized within a week – a condition I had not known since my youth. With that, my whole well-being changed.

I have to say, though, that this is all a process. I have had a lot of guidance from alternative practitioners over the past 11 years and my journey continues.
However, it now mainly extends to the area of relaxation. This automatically comes far too short with a self-employed single parent. Since my nature is very energetic, it is sometimes difficult for me to switch off and take a break.

So it’s never just nutrition alone. This may also explain my path: nutritional counseling, alternative medicine practitioner and then yoga training. I would have started or finished the latter long ago, if the alternative practitioner wasn’t so engaging (especially in combination with the other items on the to-do list and in life ;))

Among other things, you are the author of the book "Vegan in Other Circumstances" - what was your motivation to write this book and what exactly will expectant mothers find in it?

Carmen Hercegfi: Quite simply: When I established my vegan pregnancy, there was no book to be found in Germany. It was then that I made the decision and it came to the turning point in my life. That’s why I did the training and a lot of continuing education. I worked on it for 3 years. For the nutrient part, Sarah Gebhardt from Pflanzenhunger supported me so that we are scientifically unassailable.

Expectant mothers will find an approximately 100-page guidebook section with expert opinions from doctors and field reports, easy-to-understand info on potentially critical nutrients, and above all a great deal of info on vegan breastfeeding. Unfortunately, this is constantly forgotten, although it is almost more important than pregnancy. In addition, there are nearly 140 healthy vegan recipes, specially adapted to vegan pregnancy. I think I can announce with a little pride that the book is one of the most popular or even the most popular among vegan moms.

Have you had to pay special attention to certain nutrients because of your vegan diet? Did you have a doctor who advised you particularly well here?

Carmen Hercegfi: Of course, as with all other vegans and also other mommies (regardless of diet) especially B12, vitamin D, iodine, folate, omega-3 especially DHA, calcium, zinc and B2. A doctor who could help me? No, but I was glad they weren’t against it. I got help from my alternative practitioner or I looked for the information myself.

How do you handle critics and confrontations from other parents?

Carmen Hercegfi: Honestly, I ignore most of it by now. It hardly touches me anymore. I know too much for that and my certainty that this opinion will turn in society in the near future is also too great. You know: First they laugh at you, then they fight you… and then they celebrate you – or something like that 😉

From many mothers I know the statement that during pregnancy they get a craving for the most absurd culinary variations. Did you ever think about eating something non-vegan again?

Carmen Hercegfi: Yes! Cheese and eggs. I didn’t touch cheese, but I did eat an egg once.
That was extremely strange, but after that was also good. I hear that more often. I think it’s important for moms to be relaxed about it. If they do make exceptions, they should definitely not chastise themselves for it. This is incredibly bad for the baby, because they live inside us and get all the emotions unfiltered.

What are the biggest challenges in everyday life for you?

Carmen Hercegfi: I don’t know any. But maybe I’ve just gotten used to it for so long that I don’t even notice it.

What are your plans for the future and what else will be new from you in 2019?

Carmen Hercegfi: Apart from the next book, Vegan for our Offspring, Anna and I also want to launch an online course on vegan family nutrition.
From time to time I offer challenges for holistic health with the pillars of nutrition, exercise and relaxation. You can find me at trade shows and events. Let’s see what the year brings. But once the book and online course are in the box, the focus is on preparing for the Heilpraktiker exam.

What top 5 tips do you have for moms-to-be who are also vegan during their pregnancy?

1. study intensively what you have to pay attention to.

2. change your menu according to the vegan food pyramid

3. take the right supplements. Products from the drugstore for 2.95 for 2 months can simply NOT work sufficiently and also contain an incredible number of unnecessary additives, such as fillers, release agents, colorants and coatings, as well as only synthetic nutrients. Quality costs.

4. look for a good midwife and a good companion for the birth in time, do meaningful preparation courses. But you do that anyway

5. relax. Don’t let them talk you into it, and it’s best to go to pregnancy yoga.

"I am not asking to disregard the nutrition aspect. Quite the opposite. But I would like to be treated equally and taken seriously..."

What would you like to get off your chest at the end?

Carmen Hercegfi: There is one thing that always strikes me. When vegan pregnant women or vegan children fall ill, they are often told that the vegan diet is to blame.

I do not want to say that this is always wrong, because a wrongly performed diet – no matter what form of nutrition that is, can of course also lead to complaints, BUT I would actually like to see a little more differentiation from doctors instead of prejudice. My older son has exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, which means his pancreas produces virtually no digestive enzymes. As a result, he became very thin and stopped growing. The doctors constantly blamed the vegan diet for it, which then allegedly even led to the eating disorder with him – and that although the first results from the stool sample already strongly indicated his theme and although he did not grow up vegan, even until today is not 100% vegan, because he at Dad’s and at school rarely still mixed food. (dairy-free) gets. Today, all known causes have been ruled out and our next step is human genetics. He is doing better again and gaining weight and growing because he is supplementing the enzymes.

Whenever his curve doesn’t go that way, I have to listen to vegan sayings again (only from the clinic, the pediatrician is fully on our side, by the way) . The fact that he often forgets his pills as a teenager and that this meal ends up in the toilet, as it were, is of no interest then. I’m in the pillory and it’s incredibly annoying because I know exactly that it’s not true. Even I feel helpless in such a situation and I hear more and more often about similar situations. Interestingly, my completely vegan child has been extremely healthy since birth – physically AND mentally. His motor and cognitive development is more than exemplary. So my appeal to doctors: please stop prejudging and look at all aspects. Vegan parents are usually very well informed. I am not asking to disregard the aspect of nutrition. Quite the opposite. But I wish to be treated equally and to be taken seriously….

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.

You can find more information about Carmen here: www.vegane-familien.de

Photos of Carmen: Oliver Reetz | Other photos: Envanto

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