The Importance of Vitamin-D During PregnancyLisanne Wellness Center
Vitamin-D, or the “sunshine vitamin,” is vital to the health of expecting moms and growing babies. Vitamin-D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is obtained mostly from fortified milk, fish, and dietary supplements. Your body also produces it when skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin-D plays a significant role in the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus, bone growth, and remodeling (meaning healthy bones and teeth for you and your baby). It also plays a role in immune function. Studies show that a lack of vitamin-D during pregnancy is associated with health issues in mothers, neonates, and children.
How Much Do You Need?
Vitamin-D deficiency is common among pregnant and breastfeeding women, especially those who live in areas with less sunlight. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women take 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin-D daily. Most experts agree that 1000 – 2000 IU per day is within safe limits. If you have a deficiency, you may require more and should check with your healthcare provider.
What Are the Benefits?
Bone & Teeth Health
Vitamin-D is essential for bone development, growth and remodeling. Adequate levels of vitamin-D lead to stronger bones. It can also prevent rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. Severe vitamin-D deficiency during pregnancy may contribute to skeletal deformities in early infancy and childhood.
Vitamin-D is also important for healthy immune function; its deficiency is associated with increased risk of autoimmune disorders and infections. Vitamin-D intake can potentially affect your baby’s risk of developing an autoimmune disorder later on: one study found a strong inverse association between vitamin-D levels during pregnancy and risk of the child developing a recurrent wheeze by age 3. Your immune system adapts during pregnancy to protect you and the developing fetus. Some parts become suppressed, putting you at increased risk for catching a cold or other infections. Ensure you get enough vitamin-D to protect your own immune system too!
Lower Risk of Caesarian Section
Consuming enough vitamin-D can significantly affect your chance of needing a caesarian section. Research has shown a strong link between vitamin-D deficiency and risk for cesarean delivery. One prospective study of 1,153 women found that vitamin-D deficiency was linked to twice the risk of needing a Caesarian section.
Lower Risk of Preeclampsia
Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition that involves high blood pressure and protein in your urine. Some research shows that vitamin-D might lower blood pressure by helping control hormones that affect it. Vitamin-D’s positive effect on the immune system might also play a role in preventing pre-eclampsia.
Healthier Birth Weight
Some studies have shown a link between vitamin-D intake during pregnancy and birth weight. One study of 2,091 women found that restricting fortified milk or vitamin-D intake lowered birth weight in otherwise healthy mothers. Low birth weights are associated with an increased risk of many health problems immediately after birth and in the long-term.
What Are the Symptoms of a vitamin-D Deficiency?
You might not realize you are vitamin-D deficient until you have bloodwork done because the symptoms often go unnoticed. Some things to look out for that could signal a problem include:
- Trouble thinking clearly or feeling “foggy”
- Muscle weakness
- Brittle bones (fractures happen easily)
- Bone pain
What Are the Best Sources of Vitamin-D?
Levels of Vitamin-D in food are generally low. The best sources are herring and cod liver oil (1383 and 1360 IU respectively), while other kinds of fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna contain 200 – 500 IU. Small amounts are also found in beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese. In the United States, most dietary vitamin-D comes from fortified foods. Milk fortification started in the 1930s in an effort to combat rickets. Almost all American milk products are fortified. Other fortified products include some non-dairy milks, orange juice, and cereal. Because it is difficult to obtain enough vitamin-D from food alone, supplements are often advised during pregnancy. You should also take prenatal vitamins, which contain other vitamins your baby needs for healthy development.
For more information about pregnancy nutrition, contact Lisanne Wellness Center at 713-461-WELL (9355).