Amongst all the vitamins, vitamin D is the one that has generated the most interest in medical research over the past decade. Besides vitamin D’s well-known importance for strong bones, more recent studies have suggested that it is also important for strong muscles and a good immune system, as well as preventing diseases such as multiple sclerosis and even colorectal cancer.
Today however let us look at the role of vitamin D during pregnancy, and briefly discuss three research studies from 2013 that demonstrate the importance of the vitamin both for the health of the pregnant woman and her developing fetus.
The first, published in the June 28 Canadian Medical Association Journal, studied 173 women from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and they found that 55% of the women had normal vitamin D levels (>30 ng/ml), but 45% of the women were deficient.
Most importantly, they found that women who had normal vitamin D levels had much better success with invitro fertilization. Women with normal vitamin D levels had a pregnancy success rate of 53%, but women who were deficient had a success rate of only 35%.
And while this study only looked at women undergoing invitro fertilization, it suggests that adequate vitamin D levels might also be important for any woman hoping to become pregnant.
The second study, published in the British Medical Journal March 26, examined numerous previous research studies since 1966, and the conclusion was that low vitamin D levels during pregnancy significantly increased the risk the expectant mother would develop diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy. Further, vitamin D deficient women were more likely to deliver low-birth-weight babies.
Nutrition Journal on June 13 published the third study which analyzed the vitamin D levels of 60 pairs of pregnant Greek women and their newborn babies. The researchers noted that the current belief is that only about 20% of a newborn baby’s vitamin D levels is related to the mother’s vitamin D levels.
But these researchers were able to identify more completely the different sub-types of vitamin D, and they found that actually the mothers’ levels determined 56% of what their newborn’s levels would be after delivery. This emphasizes the importance that the mother has adequate vitamin D intake.
Vitamin D can be obtained from various foods, especially oily fish (such as salmon or tuna canned in oil), fortified milk and soymilk, yogurt, eggs, and mushrooms.
Exposure to sunlight also stimulates the body to produce vitamin D, and about 20 minutes daily outside on a sunny day (without sunscreen) during mid-day is enough to fulfill your vitamin D requirements.
Here in Brazil we are in winter, so sunlight is less dependable, and sunscreen is used by many smart people concerned about avoiding wrinkles and skin cancer. So, you might do what many doctors do (since they know how important this vitamin is): take a vitamin D supplement every day.
Especially if you are pregnant, or trying to conceive, make sure you have an adequate D levels either from sun and/or diet, and talk to your obstetrician about supplementation.
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