Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy has been suggested to safely improve pregnancy and infant outcomes.
Vitamin D is produced by the human body from exposure to sunlight and can also be consumed from foods such as fish-liver oils, fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks, and liver. Vitamin D has many functions in the body; it helps maintain bone integrity and calcium homeostasis.
Vitamin D is important in the health of your bones and immune system. Your daily need during pregnancy is at least 600 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D3 and the highest daily intake that is known to be safe is 4000 IU.
Some vitamin D experts recommend higher doses than the recommended 600 IU, particularly for women who have a low vitamin D blood level. More than 30% of all pregnant women are vitamin D deficient. Low vitamin D levels are common, and may be linked to a higher incidence of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and poor fetal growth.
During pregnancy, vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency may develop. Vitamin D supplements during pregnancy improves a woman’s vitamin D levels and may reduce the risk of delivering a baby prematurely (less than 37 weeks of gestation), result in a lower risk of high blood pressure in women and reduce the risk of a low birthweight baby (less than 2500 g).
Getting enough vitamin D is also important for women trying to conceive, as normal vitamin D levels have been associated with higher pregnancy rates. Recent studies have tested 2000 and 4000 IU of vitamin D in pregnant women, which were safe and effective in achieving a normal vitamin D level. It’s best to ask your health care provider whether you should have your vitamin D level checked, and how much vitamin D you should be taking. The blood test used to check your vitamin D level is called 25-OH-Vitamin D.
The average American diet contains about 100 IU per day and the main sources of Vitamin D are the sun and some foods such as fish, milk, eggs and nuts. 15 minutes of sun three times a week to the face, arms and hands without sunscreen is often enough to achieve the needed Vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D deficiency can be linked to higher rates of childhood asthma, allergies and eczema. Vegetarians, darker skinned people, and people who are indoors a lot have particularly low levels of Vitamin D.
Due to Vitamin D deficiency problems, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all infants get at least 400 IU of Vitamin D3 during the first two months of life.
Breast milk contains only 25 IU per liter, so supplementation is usually needed. Talk to your pediatrician about how much would need to be supplemented.
Taking extra Vitamin D (often in the form of Vitamin D3) during pregnancy will ensure that your breast milk will contain adequate amounts during nursing.
Amount of Vitamin D (IU):
- Egg (1): 25
- Milk (8 oz glass): 100
- Salmon (3 oz): 300
- Tuna (3.5 oz can): 200