I already introduced how new research shows that ensuring adequate vitamin D levels may reduce certain health risks during pregnancy and breastfeeding for both the mother and the child.
I then detailed how women that are deficient in vitamin D may be more likely to experience infertility, preclampsia, gestational diabetes, vaginal infections, immune intolerances, and can be up to 400% more likely to give birth via c-section!
You can check out part 1:
- But what health concerns are there for a growing child and their need for vitamin D?
- How does vitamin D actually work?
- How much vitamin D does the research suggest pregnant and breastfeeding mothers take?
Vitamin D Deficiency in the Developing Baby
Vitamin D is able to pass to the fetus via the mother's placenta and the growing fetus is fully dependent on mother’s level of vitamin D to meet its needs (1). Babies whose mothers had low vitamin D throughout their pregnant may have higher risk for certain health complications.
Low prenatal vitamin D status may increase a child’s susceptibility to:
- osteoporosis & skeletal problems
- small size & delayed growth
- cardiovascular disease
- autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes
- type 2 diabetes
- hypocalcemia and related seizures
- an increased risk of having HIV transmitted to them from their mother
- food allergies
- Multiple Sclerosis
- abnormal brain development
- & respiratory infections
Although it seems a stretch to believe that vitamin D can have such widespread effects on the human body, it make sense if you understand the way vitamin D works, beyond it's conversions in the skin & kidneys, & storage in the liver.
How Does Vitamin D Work Beyond Bone Health?
As research on vitamin D has exploded over the last five years, we now know that every tissue type in the human body has a receptor for vitamin D. We also know that vitamin D influences over 200 genes! Here's a segment from Dr. Oz where functional medicine physician Dr. Mark Hyman talks about the importance of vitamin D.
It is well-documented that healthy gut bacteria play an important role in pregnant and lactating mothers. Ensuring adequate vitamin D levels may actually play a synergistic role with probiotics as they relate to allergies, asthma, and even obesity (12).
Vitamin D may help prevent & manage preecclampsia due to its effects on the immune system (13). As Dr. Hyman noted in the video, vitamin D regulates genes involved with the immune system. Similarly, the anti-inflammatory and immune-modulatory effect may also be involved in the prevention of multiple sclerosis, and possibly cognitive & behavioral disorders (14; 15)
Some indirect associations between vitamin D and health could be a result of gene-nutrient interactions, one of the fastest growing areas of research. For instance, certain genetic findings in individuals with autism have been linked with an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency. Due to vitamin D’s role in neuron growth, a deficiency of this powerful nutrient is suggested to play a role is individuals with autism (16).
Genetic differences may also play a role in vitamin D's role in susceptibility to type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The list goes on...
Lastly, other related problems such as allergy and asthma may be dependent on certain time windows during pregnancy (17). Whether vitamin D is also important during time windows following birth is still unknown.
Vitamin D Guidelines During Pregnancy
Okay, so I've answered "Why Vitamin D is Important". I've also shown how it may be as vital to ensure vitamin D levels as it is to check other nutrients such as folic acid. Now, you're probably wondering how much vitamin D should I take?
To ensure healthy infant vitamin D levels, it is suggested by the research that a mother may need up to 4000IU of Vitamin D during pregnancy and breastfeeding to ensure healthy levels are maintained (18), and doses up to 7000IU/day have been recommended to treat Vitamin D deficiency in otherwise healthy patients (19).
It is also important to look for Vitamin D3 and not Vitamin D2 which is also known as ergocalciferol. Vitamin D2 is not as well absorbed as D3, but some companies include it as it is a cheaper source. Because there is some risk of overdosing with vitamin D, it is suggested to have your levels tested by your doctor.