What’s the big deal about Vitamin D?

All pregnant and lactating women should have their vitamin D levels checked because many of us are deficient and don’t know it.  Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been linked with an almost 4 times higher Cesarean-section rate (J Clinical Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Mar; 94(3):940-5).  Maternal deficiency during pregnancy has also been correlated with low birth weight, pre-eclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure, swelling, protein in the urine, and in some cases maternal death), and gestational diabetes.

Checking your vitamin D level is accomplished via a simple test your doctor can order.  Once you know your vitamin D level, your doctor can help you with a supplementation plan, if necessary, to ensure you and your baby are getting adequate amounts of this vitamin.

At GetzWell, we provide nutrition counseling for pregnant women in order to optimize nutritional status at this crucial time in your baby’s development.  We believe whole kid care starts before your baby is born and want to be involved as early as possible in your child’s health.

Here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics is saying:

“Given the growing evidence that adequate maternal vitamin D status is essential during pregnancy, not only for maternal well-being but also for fetal development, health care professionals who provide obstetric care should consider assessing maternal vitamin D status by measuring the 25-OH-D concentrations of pregnant women. On an individual basis, a mother should be supplemented with adequate amounts of vitamin D3 to ensure that her 25-OH-D levels are in a sufficient range (>32 ng/ml). The knowledge that prenatal vitamins containing 400 IU of vitamin D3 have little effect on circulating maternal 25-OH-D concentrations, especially during the winter months, should be imparted to all health care professionals.” (Pediatrics. 2008 Nov;122(5):1142-52.)

Inadequate vitamin D has also been associated with rickets in children, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, common cancers, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and depression.  One recent study conducted by Harvard researchers showed that if mothers take vitamin D while they are pregnant, their children are less likely to have wheezing illnesses during the first 3 years of life.  Another study indicated that the median adult intake of vitamin D in the US is only 230 IU per day versus the 2000 IU daily dose which is recommended by the Mayo Clinic and the Vitamin D Council.

Vitamin D is not found in many foods, but we are able to make lots of vitamin D in our skin when we spend just 10-15 minutes in the sun (without sunscreen).  The lower back is an ideal part of the body to expose to the sun so that we make plenty of D vitamin but don’t need to worry about wrinkles!  Unfortunately, between October and March in San Francisco the sun is too far away to allow us to make vitamin D and much of the summer in SF is foggy, preventing the sun’s rays from reaching us.  So, for most of us a vitamin D3 supplement is necessary.

The Vitamin D Council contains a wealth of information: www.vitamindcouncil.org.