If you are pregnant you have probably heard many times the value of making sure you take your prenatal vitamins and get enough nutrients in your diet. Vitamin D is an especially important vitamin to the health of your unborn baby.
Why Do I Need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D has many jobs for you and the health of your baby. It regulates the necessary levels of calcium and phosphorus, which in turn helps to build your baby’s bones and teeth. If you do not have enough vitamin D your baby is at risk for skeletal malformations and retarded growth, impacting the healthy birth weight needed to get your infant started on the right track.
Pregnancy puts a lot of demands on your body, and if you lack vitamin D during this time you can be at an increased risk of developing preeclampsia – which is highlighted by high blood pressure, protein in your urine, and possibly resulting in the need for an early and risk-filled birth for both you and the health of your baby. The likelihood that you will require a cesarean delivery is also increased.
If your body does not have adequate levels of vitamin D during pregnancy, your infant is then at risk of being born with vitamin D deficiency. This can lead to increased chances of developing rickets, abnormal bone growth, and delays in physical development. These types of issues can have long lasting effects, reaching into adulthood with lowered immune functions and inadequate bone development.
How Much Vitamin D Should I Have?
There is some debate over how much vitamin D is enough for pregnant women, but the underlying agreement is that pregnant women need at least 200 IUs (which is the equivalent of 5 micrograms) each day. Some physicians recommend up to 4,000 IUs for pregnant women, so check with your healthcare provider to see what is most appropriate for you and your baby.
How Do I Get Vitamin D?
Vitamin D can come from several sources, and perhaps the easiest one of those is sunlight. Your body makes vitamin D naturally when it is exposed to sunlight, so at least 15 minutes of sunlight each day can help supply you with the vitamin D that you need for a healthy pregnancy. However, sunlight exposure during pregnancy can lead to skin discoloration, so many physicians recommend that their pregnant patients protect themselves from direct sunlight during pregnancy. There are also many food sources for vitamin D that you can add to your diet.
- Fortified milk products
- Pasteurized eggs
- Cereal products (read the labels)
- Some cheeses (avoid soft cheeses while pregnant)
- Fatty fishes (check with your healthcare provider to make sure that your fish selection is healthy for you and your baby)
- Orange juice that has been fortified
- Fortified margarine
Should I Have my Vitamin D Level Checked?
If you have concerns about your vitamin D level, consult your healthcare provider. Most physicians recommend that their pregnant patients receive vitamin D supplements as part of their regular prenatal vitamin regimes. There are some conditions that can put you at increased risks of vitamin D deficiency.
- Being overweight or obese – the extra body fat stores the vitamin D and makes it less available to the needs of the body
- Taking certain medications for epilepsy, high cholesterol, and some others can reduce the levels of vitamin D in your body
- Having Celiac Disease or Crohn’s Disease puts you at risk for lowered levels of vitamin D because the intestinal absorption rates of nutrients are lower
It is always best to err on the side of caution and seek the advice of your healthcare provider whenever you have concerns about nutrition during pregnancy. The need for vitamin D will extend beyond pregnancy and into the healthy choices needed for breastfeeding as well.