Vitamin D plays an important role in the development of your baby, as well as being vital for maintaining your bones, teeth and muscles. Despite this, around 1 in 5 people the UK are said to have low levels of the so-called ‘sunshine vitamin’.1
Where to get vitamin D
Although it can be found in some foods, rich dietary sources of vitamin D are rare. The foods with the highest levels of vitamin D include herring, mackerel, sardines and eggs. It can also be found in fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and soy milk products. Even the healthiest diet is unlikely to provide enough vitamin D, however,2 and most of your vitamin D should come from the sunshine. However, in northern Europe, low vitamin D levels are very common especially in winter due to the lack of sunny days. Those at higher risk of having low vitamin D levels include those with darker, pigmented skin and people who are very overweight (with a BMI higher than 30).3
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Why is it important?
You will know that calcium is important for the development of bones, muscles and teeth, and that calcium is especially important for pregnant women. However, without enough vitamin D, your body can’t absorb calcium and phosphate properly. In the second half of your pregnancy, vitamin D is especially important as this is when most of your baby’s bone growth occurs.
A growing baby gets all of its vitamin D from its mother’s stores, so pregnant women should be careful that their levels aren’t too low. The research on the role of vitamin D in pregnancy has increased in recent years as scientists have focused on the effects a deficiency can have on the baby.
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Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with lower birth weight in infants across several studies.4 One Chinese study from 2017 found that maternal vitamin D insufficiency is common during pregnancy and is associated with low birth weight and high risk of small gestational weight in infants.5
Another study showed a marked reduction in the risk of infant wheeze from birth until the age of 3 when the mother has sufficient levels of vitamin D.6
Don’t panic, because it’s unlikely that you have a true deficiency in vitamin D. However, it’s likely your levels are low, and because rich dietary sources of vitamin D are so scarce, you could consider taking a supplement. Official health guidelines from Public Health England (PHE) advise taking 10mcg of vitamin D supplements daily in the autumn and winter, and if you’re at risk of having low vitamin D levels, take supplements all year round.7
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before changing your diet.
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1. [Online] https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/the-new-guidelines-on-vitamin-d-what-you-need-to-know/.
2. [Online] https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/VitaminD.pdf.
3. [Online] http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001383.
4. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25774884?access_num=25774884&link_type=MED&dopt=Abstract.
5. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28939424.
6. [Online] https://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5237.
7. [Online] https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/the-new-guidelines-on-vitamin-d-what-you-need-to-know/.