Vitamin D and Pregnancy
The deficiency of vitamin D in pregnant women is a public health concern with a prevalence of 18-84% worldwide, and 5-50% in the United States. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone metabolism and the regulation of calcium, which is in higher demand during pregnancy.
Vitamin D is produced by the body after exposure to sunlight but is also found in many foods. Vitamin D deficiency has been found to be linked with an increased risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus, and preterm birth.
Receiving adequate vitamin D during pregnancy through diet and supplements is necessary to maintain homeostasis and possibly reduce these unwanted outcomes.
Risk factors for vitamin D insufficiency
- Extra skin covering
- Generous sun protection
- High BMI
- Low intake of dietary vitamin D
Do I need vitamin D supplements?
Confiding in your healthcare provider is the best way to know whether you need vitamin supplements. However, WHO recommends that pregnant women should be encouraged to receive adequate nutrition through a healthy and balanced diet. And because sunlight is the main and most important source of vitamin D they are advised to be in the sun more. There is no set amount of time for sunlight exposure because of the different factors that play a role, such as the amount of skin exposed, time of day, season, skin pigmentation, and sunscreen use.
Pregnant women with a history of vitamin D deficiency can be given vitamin D supplements at the recommended nutrient intake. Currently, there is limited evidence on the extent of the benefits and harms of vitamin D supplements with regards to limiting mom and baby health outcomes.
What are the foods with high vitamin D content?
- Oily/fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines)
- Fortified cow’s/plant-based milk
- Some breakfast cereals
Though vitamin D occurs naturally in fish and some plants, it is not found in quantifiable amounts in meat, poultry, unfortified dairy products, and in the fruits and vegetables commonly eaten.
Due to the controversy regarding the recommended doses of vitamin D during pregnancy, it is important to get your vitamin needs catered specifically to you by your healthcare provider.
Abbasian, Maryam, et al. “Vitamin D Deficiency in Pregnant Women and Their Neonates.” Global Journal of Health Science, Canadian Center of Science and Education, 1 Sept. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5064090/.
Dasher, Eva. “Vitamin D during Pregnancy.” BabyCenter, 21 May 2021, https://www.babycenter.com/pregnancy/diet-and-fitness/vitamin-d-in-your-pregnancy-diet_661.
Larqué, Elvira, et al. “Maternal and Foetal Health Implications of Vitamin D Status during Pregnancy.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, Karger Publishers, 13 Mar. 2018, https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/487370#.
Mulligan, Megan L, et al. “Implications of Vitamin D Deficiency in Pregnancy and Lactation.” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3540805/.
“Vitamin D Supplementation during Pregnancy.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 8 Sept. 2020, https://www.who.int/elena/titles/vitamind_supp_pregnancy/en/.
“Vitamins, Supplements and Nutrition in Pregnancy.” NHS, NHS, 14 Feb. 2020, https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/vitamins-supplements-and-nutrition/.