Vitamin D is a steroid vitamin from a group of fat-soluble pro hormones. Vitamin D and pregnancy are important together. Expecting mothers need to make sure that the get the recommended amounts of vitamin D during pregnancy for both their own well being and the healthy development of their baby. The most significant compounds for human development are D2 and D3.
Does my prenatal vitamin have enough vitamin D?
It is unlikely that your prenatal vitamin provides enough vitamin D. A recent study found that women taking 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily had the greatest benefits in preventing preterm labor/births and infections. The study confirmed that vitamin D at this level is not only safe for you but for your baby and the researchers from this study now recommend this daily dosage of vitamin D for all pregnant women. The average prenatal vitamin only contains 400 IU of vitamin D so additional supplementation should be taken daily.
Why do I need Vitamin D during pregnancy?
Vitamin D is beneficial for your own personal health. Vitamin D now has extensive research supporting its role in immune function, healthy cell division and bone health. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus. Many studies are finding a connection between low serum vitamin D levels and an increased risk of certain types of cancers, autoimmune disease, neurologic disease, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin D also invests in the well-being of your baby by supporting healthy bone development. Deficiency with vitamin D is related to preeclampsia.
What contributes to Vitamin D deficiency?
At this time, 40-60% of the entire U.S. population is vitamin D deficient, including pregnant women. The reasons for this widespread deficiency are many, and to begin to unfold this issue you can start with understanding that there is a very short list of foods that contain vitamin D. These foods are egg yolk, salmon and cod liver oil, however, most vitamin D is consumed through fortified foods like milk. For the 75% of the population that is lactose intolerant, fortified milk products are not a reliable source for their vitamin D consumption.
Additionally, many factors influence the body’s ability to make and absorb vitamin D. These factors include: where you live, the season, how much time you spend outdoors without sunscreen, skin pigmentation, age, obesity, pollution, and having healthy intestines with optimal absorption capacity. These factors come in to play because Vitamin D is actually a hormone and needs sunlight to turn on manufacturing by the body.
At this time, a large part of the U.S. population falls into one or more of these categories:
- Uses sunscreen
- Is a senior citizen (50+), so it is not surprising that vitamin D deficiencies have risen to such proportions.
What steps can you take to get Vitamin D?
You can begin by making an effort to eat more vitamin D containing foods. Next, research suggests, that sensible sun exposure (usually 5-10 min of exposure of the arms and legs or the hands, arms, and face, 2 or 3 times per week) can help as well. However, the best way to really ensure adequate vitamin D is through simple supplementation. When supplementing, your choices will be between two forms of vitamin D. Ergocalciferol is the vegetarian form of vitamin D and cholecalciferol is the animal-sourced form, usually derived from fish liver oil or lanolin from sheep. The cholecalciferol form is the most absorbable and utilized form for the body but if you are vegan you should choose ergocalciferol. Quality is important. I recommend Nordic Naturals Vitamin D3 (1000 IU per soft gel) in the natural form cholecalciferol form. The carrier oil is organic, extra virgin olive oil and they come in small soft gels that are very easy to swallow. I also like Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA with added vitamin D3 (400 IU per 2 soft gels). This product provides two of the most important nutrients for pregnant women backed by a long standing, reliable company that guarantees optimum purity, quality, and freshness.
Reference Vitamin D Supplementation during Pregnancy Part 2 NICHD/CTSA Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT): Outcomes. Carol L. Wagner, Donna Johnson, Thomas C. Hulsey, Myla Ebeling, Judy Shary, Pamela G. Smith, Betty Bivens, Bruce W. Hollis. Pediatrics/Obstetrics, Medical University of SC, Charleston, SC.
Maternal Vitamin D and Fetal Growth in Early-Onset Severe Preeclampsia. Chrstopher Robinson, Carol Wagner, Bruce Hollis, John Baatz and Donna Johnson. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2011 June.