Vitamin D and Pregnancy – Should you supplement?
If you are pregnant, Congratulations!
If this is your first pregnancy you probably want to learn everything you can about nutrition in pregnancy.
But even if you have been pregnant before, you will want to update your knowledge about vitamin D. So what do you need to know?
First, modern research confirms that vitamin D blood levels should be maintained at near-optimum throughout pregnancy.
It’s common sense really. After all, the sun shines on pregnant women too, so you can be sure your body knows what to do with lots of vitamin D during this special time.
Second, relying on sunlight alone will not get your vitamin D levels into optimum range, unless you live in a very warm climate – and expose much of your skin to strong sunlight almost every day.
Mums-to-be supplement vitamin D
So Yes! You should supplement vitamin D during pregnancy, because it will affect not only your own health, but your baby’s too.
In fact, some of the health benefits may extend through your baby’s whole life, not just infancy.
So there is no reason to be concerned if you have been taking your vitamin D3 maintenance dose and suddenly discover that you are already 6 weeks pregnant!
But if you have not been supplementing vitamin D, then now would be a very good time to start. And you will need to take an effective dose. This is not a time to be playing around with 400 IU per day!
How much vitamin D during pregnancy?
Vitamin D is not quite as simple as most nutrients, where everyone is recommended to take the same amount per day. With vitamin D, individual needs vary, although most mums-to-be will need around 4000IU per day.
You want to build up the level in your blood to around 50 ng/ml, and keep it there as your pregnancy progresses. (This is the same level we recommend for everyone, not just mums-to-be.)
Best way is to ask your doctor to help you monitor your vitamin D blood level, with blood tests (called 25(OH)D or 25-hydroxy-D) while you supplement vitamin D. Expect it to take about two months for your blood level to respond fully to the supplement dose you are taking.
Use your current body mass to help you calculate an initial vitamin D dosage that is right for you. See our vitamin D dosage recommendations. You may need to adjust that dosage when you see your 25(OH)D blood test results, provided you have already been supplementing for two months or more.
Vitamin D benefits for baby
It’s really important to get the right amount of vitamin D, because low vitamin D in the mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding is thought to increase baby’s risk in later life for conditions such as: autism, athsma, obesity, osteomalacia, multiple sclerosis, rickets, schizophrenia, type 1 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
On the other hand, if you can maintain an optimum vitamin D level in pregnancy and while breastfeeding, your baby starts life with an immediate health advantage, which persists for many years, and perhaps throughout life.
I hope you will want to maintain your vitamin D status even after you are no longer breastfeeding, for the sake of your own health. See Vitamin D Benefits. And your baby may need vitamin D supplements too – you get drops for babies.
Watch this next video if you are concerned about how safe it is to take effective doses of vitamin D during pregnancy, or if you want more information about the benefits of vitamin D for you and your baby.
This next video is from the world of vitamin D research. Professor Bruce Hollis is the director of Paediatric Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina and has studied vitamin D metabolism and nutrition for the past 35 years. He discusses findings from his recent research on vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
So you might want to jump right in now, and buy your vitamin D supplements, but what do you know about