Everyone needs vitamin D – without vitamin D, our body cannot absorb calcium and phosphate from the diet.
Why is vitamin D important during pregnancy?
Your baby depends on you for adequate vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential during pregnancy, as it helps build your baby's bones and teeth. If you have low vitamin D levels during pregnancy, it can affect your baby's development.
Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can cause complications like pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) and gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy).
A baby born with a vitamin D deficiency is at an increased risk or rickets (bones become weak or soft) and delayed physical growth.
Who is at a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency?
Some women are at greater risk of not getting enough vitamin D, for example,
- Women who avoid sun exposure or with limited sun exposure
- Women who have darker skin
- Women who wear sun and winter protective clothing
Can I get vitamin D from the sun?
Vitamin D is known as the 'sunshine vitamin' because your skin can make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays).
However, too much sun can cause skin aging and cancer; hence it's best to limit exposure of skin to sunlight. Wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen before stepping out.
What foods provide vitamin D?
Very few foods contain vitamin D. Good sources of vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- Cheese and egg yolks - they contain vitamin D in small amounts
Supplements for vitamin D
Getting sufficient vitamin D from diet alone is difficult. Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements.1 Your doctor may prescribe a prenatal supplement that contains vitamin D. Don't take any supplements during pregnancy without consulting with your doctor.
- How to get vitamin D from sunlight [Internet]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-get-vitamin-d-from-sunlight/. Accessed on Aug 26, 2020.
- March of Dimes. Vitamins and other nutrients during pregnancy [Internet]. Available at: https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/vitamins-and-other-nutrients-during-pregnancy.aspx#. Accessed on Aug 26, 2020.
- The Cochrane Collaboration. Is vitamin D supplementation beneficial or harmful for women during pregnancy? [Internet]. Available from: /CD008873/PREG_vitamin-d-supplementation-beneficial-or-harmful-women-during-pregnancy. Accessed on Aug 26, 2020.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Vitamin D: Screening and supplementation during pregnancy [Internet]. Available at: https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2011/07/vitamin-d-screening-and-supplementation-during-pregnancy. Accessed on Aug 26, 2020.
- Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora. Vitamin D and your pregnancy and vitamin D and your baby [Internet]. Available at: https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/topic_sheets/vitamin-d-your-pregnancy-vitamin-d-your-baby-v2.pdf. Accessed on Aug 26, 2020.
- Mayo Clinic. Rickets [Internet]. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rickets/symptoms-causes/syc-20351943#:~:text=Rickets%20is%20the%20softening%20and,calcium%20and%20phosphorus%20from%20food. Accessed on Aug 26, 2020.
- National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D [Internet]. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/. Accessed on Aug 26, 2020.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Nutrition during pregnancy [Internet]. Available at: https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/pregnancy/nutrition-during-pregnancy. Accessed on Aug 26, 2020.