Vitamin D During Pregnancy

image001Vitamin D belongs to a group of pro hormones which are fat-soluble. It is classified as a steroid vitamin and is one of the most important vitamins during pregnancy. In order for an expectant mother to remain healthy during her pregnancy and ensure the optimal health of her fetus, she needs to get the recommended quantities of vitamin D. It is also important to know whether you should take vitamin D supplements and how you can get this nutrient from natural sources.

Why Is Vitamin D During Pregnancy Important ?

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin because of its ability to regulate the body’s levels of phosphate and calcium. These nutrients are essential for healthy teeth and bones, which is important even when you are not pregnant.

A lack of vitamin D during pregnancy can lead to the baby not receiving enough phosphate and calcium which in turn can lead to the development of weak bones and teeth. In some cases, it can even lead to the development of rickets.

In addition, vitamin D helps fight infections and some experts feel it can help prevent certain cancers as well as diabetes. There is also a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and low birth rate. There is also a slightly higher risk of certain complications such as needing a C-section or experiencing preeclampsia when you have a vitamin D deficiency.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need During Pregnancy?

The recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences is that pregnant women have 200 IUs (which is 5 micrograms) of vitamin D daily if they don’t receive enough sunlight. Despite this, many experts recommend a higher number. Bruce Hollis, who is a pediatrics professor from the Medical University of South Carolina, suggests that pregnant women take a 4,000 IU supplement of vitamin D each day and breastfeeding women opt for 6,000 IU. This, of course, includes dietary vitamin D intake. 

Is Vitamin D Supplement Necessary?

Experts recommend that you take a supplement of 10 mcg of vitamin D during pregnancy and while breastfeeding everyday. There are also other factors that can increase your risk of lower vitamin D levels, increasing the need for a supplement. Some factors include:

  • Being of Middle Eastern, Caribbean, African, or south Asian descent
  • Not getting much sunlight exposure. An example would be those who always wear sunscreen and cover up while outside
  • Not eating enough foods rich in vitamin D like meat, eggs, oily fish, or foods fortified with vitamin D
  • Having a BMI of over 30
  • Taking certain medications

Most of the pregnancy multivitamins you find will have vitamin D or you can take an individual supplement for the vitamin. When selecting your multivitamin, be sure to choose one designed for pregnancy and talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.

Notes and Precautions

For pregnant women, it is not usually recommended to get the vitamin D through sunlight exposure as there is an increased risk of irregular skin darkening.

It is possible that pregnant women who don’t take vitamin D supplements and then breastfeed their babies will have babies with low levels of vitamin D when young. Sometimes these babies will need a daily dose of the vitamin but his doctor will let you know if this is the case.

What Are Dietary Sources of Vitamin D?

Vitamin D during pregnancy can be attained from foods and beverages. Oily fish including sardines, mackerel, and salmon are excellent sources of vitamin D and because of this you should try to have fish at least twice a week. You can also get some vitamin D from egg yolks and red meat. Certain breakfast cereals and margarines will also be fortified with some vitamin D so pay attention to labels. Consuming vitamin D is especially important during the winter months when the sun won’t be at the correct angle to help stimulate your body’s vitamin D production. Listed below are recommended foods for you to get enough vitamin D.

Foods

Description

Fish

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Usually raw fish has higher levels of vitamin D than when cooked. Fatty cuts or fish which are canned in oil also tend to have higher values. Common options include trout, salmon, mackerel, tuna, and eel. 100g of trout, for example, has 759 IU of vitamin D.

Fortified Cereals

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Always select fortified cereals without partially hydrogenated oils and very little refined sugar. A 100 gram serving can provide you with up to 342 IU of vitamin D.

Oysters

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Although high in cholesterol, oysters are an excellent source of vitamin D, copper, selenium, manganese, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. 100 grams of Eastern Oysters will give 320 IU.

Fortified Tofu and Soy Milk

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These are frequently fortified with both calcium and vitamin D. Fortified tofu can give up to 157 IU in 100 grams and the same portion of fortified soy milk can give 49 IU DV. Always read the labels for specific information on a product.

Fortified Dairy Products

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When fortified, these products provide both vitamin D and calcium. A cup of fortified milk provides up to 127 IU, a cubic inch of cheese up to 6.6 IU, and a tablespoon of butter up to 7.8 IU.

Eggs

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Eggs not only contain vitamin D, but also protein and vitamin B12. 100 grams of eggs have 80 IU. Please remember that vitamin D in eggs mainly come from egg yolk.

Mushrooms

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In addition to vitamin D, mushrooms contain copper and vitamin B5. 100 grams of lightly cooked mushrooms (white button) provides 7.6 IU. Choose carefully when buying and opt for vitamin D–rich mushrooms.

Watch the following video where one great mom shares here advice on vitamin D during pregnancy as well as other necessary vitamins: