Vitamin D and pregnancy
Appropriate nutrition in pregnancy is vital and vitamin D plays one of these crucial roles within our body. We now realize how important normal vitamin D levels are for good health. Most people are aware of vitamin D’s association with absorption of calcium for strong bones, but appropriate vitamin D levels can also help prevent both breast cancer and colorectal cancer, type 2 diabetes, some autoimmune diseases and even depression.
Many women have low vitamin D levels because of inadequate exposure to sunlight, increased use of sunscreen and low intake of vitamin D containing foods. Women who are pregnant require even more.
A typical prenatal vitamin has only 400 IU of D, and this probably is not enough. The benefits of adequate vitamin D levels in pregnancy are numerous. Mom’s vitamin D status reflects baby's vitamin D status, meaning if mom is low, baby is low.
Low vitamin D in pregnancy has been associated with low bone mass for baby (this can lead to rickets which is when a baby has soft and weak bones), increased risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure during pregnancy, preeclampsia and an increased risk of childhood asthma.
First-time mothers-to-be with vitamin D deficiency may be up to four times more likely to need a Cesarean section. This risk alone is normally enough motivation for most women to “take their D seriously."
It is difficult for most women to get enough vitamin D from diet alone because only wild-caught fatty fish (salmon, sardines and mackerel) are a good source. I constantly hear moms say, “Well I drink milk.” That’s great, but milk is fortified with only about 100 IU per cup.
There is no consensus on how much vitamin D a pregnant women requires each day and ultimately it depends on several factors to include initial level, time of year, diet and how far south one lives. The National Institutes of Health recently funded a study that looked at 4000 IU per day in pregnant women and showed this was safe and effective in achieving normal vitamin D levels as well as resulting in fewer pregnancy complications.
If you are expecting or planning to get pregnant soon, talk to your doctor about your vitamin D intake. Learn more
- Read about Vitamin D
- View the NIH Study on Vitamin D and pregnancy
- Find more pregnancy and nutrition information
About the Author
Dr. Jeff Wentworth has been practicing OB/GYN in Hampton Roads since 2000. He attended East Carolina School of Medicine and completed his medical training in Phoenix. Dr. Wentworth has many interests within the field of OB/GYN. He enjoys practicing obstetrics and fostering these long term relationships. He is an active GYN surgeon as well as being daVinci certified for robotics and he advances medicine by participating in several research trials annually.