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New Research: Vitamin D Requirements in Pregnancy
Written by Jen Palmer, Naturopathic Doctor (ND) & NEEDS Education Director

Vitamin D deficiency is considered a widespread problem across the globe. It's essential for healthy growth, brain development, bone density, and much more. Vitamin D is particularly important in pregnancy and deficiency poses specific health risks, such as gestational diabetes, preterm delivery, and preeclampsia (a condition involving high blood pressure and protein in the urine in late pregnancy). Deficiency of this important vitamin can also be detrimental to fetus development, resulting in lower birth weight, poor bone development, and vulnerability to respiratory infections due to vitamin D's association with a strong immune system.

A study in Switzerland was conducted to better understand the vitamin D status in pregnancy. They wanted to know what factors cause vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy and how prevalent the problem is. The women involved in the study were in their third trimester of pregnancy and it was found that slightly over half of the participants, and therefore their fetuses, were deficient in vitamin D. Other European countries had somewhat similar or worse rates of deficiency; on average, 77% of pregnant German women are deficient, in Italy the rate is 85%, and it is 41% in France. In non-pregnant women, deficiency rates hover around 30% in Europe, so clearly there is a trend towards deficiency in pregnancy.

Researchers hypothesize that pregnant women may be more at risk for deficiency due to the fetus sharing maternal vitamin D supplies; therefore, causing the women to need higher doses. They also proposed that changes in liver metabolism during pregnancy may cause a reduction in vitamin D levels. Time of year also plays into deficiency rates, as the sun may not be sufficient in the winter months in northern latitudes.

It was found that vitamin D supplementation is the most important step for preventing vitamin D deficiency. Surprisingly, food choices were less important, as even fish consumption did not contribute significantly. The Swiss recommendation for vitamin D dosing is 600 IU daily and up to 2000 IU daily in cases of deficiency.

The results of this and many other studies conclude that vitamin D supplementation is critical in pregnancy and is the most effective step to preventing vitamin D deficiency. This study determined that many of the pregnant women did not supplement adequately, so education on the topic is important. It is also important to remember that when supplementing with high doses of vitamin D, be sure to get adequate doses of vitamin A and vitamin K, as the body requires a balance of these key fat soluble vitamins.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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