By: Jeffrey Wolf
DENVER – When we think of vitamin D, we often think of the sun, and maybe trying to spend more time outdoors. But a new study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology says seven out of 10 pregnant women in the U.S. are not getting enough of this crucial vitamin.
Prenatal vitamins do raise vitamin D levels during pregnancy but this study shows that higher doses may be needed. That is because vitamin D has reemerged as an important nutritional factor in maternal and infant health.
If the mother has low levels of vitamin D during the pregnancy, it can have an affect on her child in its early life. The condition has been linked to increased risk of childhood wheezing and respiratory infections. Low levels in adults have been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The lead author of the study, Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, is from the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine.
“We already know that vitamin D is important for bone health of the mother and infant, but we are just starting to scratch the surface about the many potential health benefits of vitamin D during pregnancy,” he said.
Those with darker skin or who cover their skin during the day, as well as women living in northern parts of the country are at a particularly risk for lower vitamin D levels.
However, not all women have this problem and an excess of vitamin D can be risky as well.
“We need more data from clinical trials of vitamin D supplementation in pregnant women. If the ongoing trials continue to show benefit, the best strategy will likely be measuring vitamin D levels through a simple blood test and choosing supplementation doses according to those levels. This tailored approach is common in preventive care for people with high cholesterol, and safer and more effective than a one-size-fits-all solution,” Ginde said.
His best advice, and that of other experts, is to treat vitamin D like other medications. People should have levels checked initially to see how much extra is needed. Then recheck once on supplementation to ensure levels are where they are supposed to be.
On top of taking a supplement, you can also get vitamin D from many other sources. Fortified foods like milk, cereal and yogurt, as well as other foods like eggs, have higher levels of vitamin D.
The major source for us is still sunlight, but you have to weigh getting enough vitamin D from the sun against your risk of skin cancer from sun exposure. The bottom line is that it is important to make sure your levels of vitamin D are adequate, but not too high. This is especially true if you’re pregnant.
Much like folate, another essential vitamin for a baby’s development, mothers want levels of vitamin D to be high enough before becoming pregnant.
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