Vitamin D seems to be the vitamin on everyone’s lip these days and rightly so! Vitamin D deficiency is now considered an epidemic among not only the elderly but seemingly every other population group. Today I will of course focus on pregnant women.
Firstly, let’s get one thing straight vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin it’s a hormone. Meaning the body can produce its own supply. Whilst on the other hand a vitamin must be obtained through foods as the body cannot produce it for example vitamin C.
Optimal vitamin D status is of no greater importance than during pregnancy as the mother is the sole source
Vitamin D is heavily involved in the development of your baby’s brain and immune system and unfortunately a vitamin D deficiency is all too common among pregnant women. If you’re a mum and vitamin D deficient during pregnancy, then your baby will be vitamin D deficient. So what does that mean for you and your baby?
This is what we know about babies who are born to mums with vitamin D deficiency
- Increased hip fractures later in life
- Low birth size
- Poor growth outcomes
- At 9 years of age, children were found to have low overall body bone mineral content
- Increased eczema risk
Eczema has been shown to be more pronounced and severe in infants with a concurrent vitamin D deficiency1.
- Increased allergy risk in particular a peanut allergy
Take this study for example conducted by HealthNuts in >5000 1yr old Australian infants found those with vitamin D deficiency were 3 times more likely to develop a food allergy.
Another study involving 3100 children and 3400 adults found that vitamin D levels <15mg/mol correlated with IgE sensitisation of 11 to 17 allergens. Meaning a vitamin D deficiency increased allergy risk.
What are the risks for mums with low vitamin D status during pregnancy?
- Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy, which has been associated with pre term births, miscarriages and even foetal deaths if unmanaged)
- Pre-term births
- Gestational diabetes
- Bacterial vaginosis which in itself has been linked to pre-term births
What should my vitamin D levels be?
- Optimal vitamin D levels are anywhere between 100-120nmol/L
How Much Vitamin D During Pregnancy?
- Largest randomised controlled trail of vitamin D supplementation beginning at 12-16 weeks’ gestation have reported improved vitamin D status in women taking 4000IU daily2
How do I get vitamin D into my diet?
Few foods contain vitamin D so supplementation is paramount as is healthy sun exposure. I cannot stress enough that the sun is the major producer of our vitamin D.
What does healthy sun exposure look like?
- Get at least 20 minutes of sunlight a day
- Only use sunscreen if you need it – The Environmental Working Group recommends using sunscreen only as a LAST resort
- Be proactive about protection – over exposure to the sun can damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer, so seek shade under an umbrella if you plan on being under the sun for hours at a time
- Keep hydrated
Remember that vitamin D which the sun helps us produce reduces our risk of melanoma and has been found to be protective against other cancers.
All doctors can test for vitamin D and is usually bulk billed by medicare.
By Megan Maitland
NATUROPATH | NUTRITIONIST | BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE
- Akan et al. Vitamin D Level in Children Is Correlated with Severity of Atopic Dermatitis but Only in Patients with Allergic Sensitizations. Pediatric Dermatol. 2013. 30(3) 359-63.
- Hollis BW, Johnson D, Hulsey TC, Ebeling M, Wagner CI. 2011. Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy: double blind, randomised clinical trial of safety and effectiveness. J Bone Miner Res. 26 (10) 2341-57.