Pregnancy and Vitamin D Deficiency
Pregnancy can be an exciting and overwhelming experience. The health of the mother can directly impact the pregnancy and the health of the resulting child. It is important that expecting mothers take the time to carefully monitor their health status to make sure that they have adequate levels of various nutrients and vitamins, including vitamin D.
One of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the world today is that of vitamin D. As many as one billion people all around the globe are vitamin D deficient in their blood, and as much as 41.6% of all adults in the United States are vitamin D deficient. In this instance, you might be tempted to look at those numbers and assume that the deficiency must not be a big deal if so many people experience it. The fact of the matter, however, is that vitamin D deficiency can have significant negative health consequences for those experiencing it.
More specifically, severe vitamin D deficiency in expectant mothers has been linked to abnormal bone growth, rickets, or fractures in newborns. Low levels of vitamin D in pregnant women might be linked to certain pregnancy complications including gestational diabetes, preterm birth, preeclampsia, and low birth weight. For both mother as well as child, in other words, it is important to keep an eye on vitamin D intake in order to ensure that adequate levels are consumed.
Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency
According to the Mayo Clinic, very low levels of vitamin D can wreak havoc upon your bones, leaving them brittle or misshapen. Beyond that, low levels of vitamin D could lead to insulin resistance, immune function issues, and high blood pressure. It should be noted, however, that these potential links are still being investigated and that the evidence is not yet definitive. There are also some common consequences of vitamin D deficiency that you might be experiencing every day without realizing it:
· Falling ill or contracting infections often.
· Experiencing tiredness and fatigue.
· An emergence or increase in back and bone pain.
· Experiencing depression.
· Wounds that heal slowly.
· Losing your hair.
· Experiencing muscle pain.
As you can see, the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are subtle enough that you might not immediately recognize them as issues, but are serious enough that they could negatively impact your quality of life all the same.
It is important, then, that everyone receive the proper amount of vitamin D in order to ensure they live as healthily as possible. Sometimes, however, individuals can start off with a deficiency right from birth. Let’s take a look at pregnant women, newborns, and vitamin D deficiency.
Maternal and Newborn Vitamin D Deficiency
According to a meta-analysis published in 2016, newborns and pregnant women are at an increased risk of experiencing vitamin D deficiency. A total of 95 studies were included in the analysis from all over the world, including studies from Europe, the Americas, South-East Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean. After analyzing the studies, researchers found that vitamin D levels <50 and <25 nmol L- , respectively were present at the following prevalence: Americas (64%, 9%), European (57%, 23%), Eastern Mediterranean (46%, 79%), South-East Asian (87%, not available) and Western Pacific (83%, 13%). In other words, vitamin D deficiency in newborns and pregnant women, is very common around the world.
Impact of Vitamin D Supplements during Pregnancy
Given the information from the first analysis, it makes sense to look at effect of supplementing with vitamin d in pregnant women and their newborns. A meta-analysis and systematic review published in 2015 does just that. According to the review, which analyzed various randomized controlled trials, administering vitamin D supplements during pregnancy were associated with:
- increased birth length
- birth weight
- increased circulating vitamin D levels.
Because vitamin D deficiency can negatively impact health, it is important that we make it a priority to ensure that newborns and pregnant women receive enough of it though sun exposure and supplements. It appears reasonable to recommend taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy, however more in-depth research is necessary to determine definitive guidelines for what are the optimal vitamin d levels and what is the optimal way to supplement.