“It is evident that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is a serious public health issue that affects both mother and fetus” writes Dr Bruce Hollis
Pregnancy and Labour could be considered the biggest athletic event of your life. Therefore it requires a great deal of preparation to ensure the best chances of conceiving a healthy, happy baby. It is advisable to incorporate exercise into your daily routine to prepare your body for conception prior to getting pregnant. Likewise your diet and nutrition needs to be up to par. To ensure optimum chances of conception both you and your partner should work on being as healthy as possible. Adequate sunlight is extremely high up on the list of required “nutrients” and for good reason; we will discuss the importance of Vitamin D / sunlight below.
What are the exact steps that we must take to insure adequate nutrition prior to conception and during pregnancy?
There are various steps that we must take to ensure that our pregnancy is successful. Including a balanced diet filled with fresh fruit and veg. However, it is extremely important to supplement daily with nutrients that may be deficient from our diet. This is especially important when it comes to high dose Vitamin D. There are some really eye opening studies that outline the massive benefits of incorporating a Vitamin D supplement into your diet. Including the fact that over 90% of premature babies are deficient in Vitamin D.
- It is important to note that stress depletes nutrients due to the increase in energy required for the fight or flight response. Therefore alongside ensuring that you have adequate nutrition, it is important to keep stress levels to a minimum to avoid miscarriage.
Vitamin D & Conception
The results from several scientific studies show a mind boggling correlation between taking high dose Vitamin D supplements and increased rates of conception. In fact, it has been shown that starting Vitamin D supplements at least 11 weeks before will increase your chance of conception by as much as three times. Furthermore, if the father consumes adequate Vitamin D the chance of conception rises even further.
Why does Vitamin D increase chances of conception?
Vitamin D from sunlight (and supplements) powers up our cells energy centres: the mighty mitochondria, and is an essential part of our diet. Every part of your body, from your cells to your muscles to your bones need Vitamin D so that your body has enough in reserve when required. It is very normal for people living a modern sedentary lifestyle to be extremely deficient in Vitamin D. This is especially true for people with dark skin or people who live the northern hemisphere and don’t get enough high-quality sunlight. Therefore to increase health and fertility BOTH the female and male should ensure they have a daily dose of Vitamin D.
Male Fertility is boosted with Vitamin D Supplementation
Sperm count and Testosterone levels rise significantly when a man has a proper dose of Vitamin D. The real reason for this is that humans were designed to spend a whole lot of time outdoors. This simply does not happen for most people in our modern society. Studies show that birth rates double when men take high dose Vitamin D supplementation (up to about 50 ng), making Vitamin D a go-to supplement for those looking to conceive. Despite the studies showing this correlation, it is still not normal for men to turn to Vitamin D supplementation when trying to conceive.
Why does Vitamin D reduce chances of miscarriage?
“It is important to have adequate vitamin D to increase tolerance of the fetus” says Dr Carol Wagner
A fetus has half the genome of the mother and half from the father. Therefore the DNA of the growing baby is foreign to the mother. This can result in the mother aborting the baby if she does not have a strong enough immune system. Increasing the intake of vitamin D via supplementation will insure that the mother’s immune system is strong enough to protect the fetus.
Severe Vitamin D DEFICIENCY found in up to 75% of women tested, is detrimental to early embryonic development and increases the risk of sub-clinical pregnancy loss. Miscarriage is 2.2 times more likely in the first trimester if there is lower than 50 nmol/L of Vitamin D in the blood eg: if there is a Vitamin D deficiency in the mother. The lack of energy in the cells in pregnant women who are deficient in Vitamin D makes pregnancy a hard task for the body. This can lead to miscarriage, preterm births and birth defects.
More evidence in Preemies
It is interesting to note that a study carried out in July 2015 showed that all preemies with Chronic Lung Disease had low Vitamin D levels. This shows that early supplementation is a key factor in ensuring that a baby is born with healthy lungs. Furthermore, it is widely accepted by physicians that supplementing preterm infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) with Vitamin D prevents rickets and increases bone density.
Vitamin D should be taken BEFORE, DURING & AFTER pregnancy
“A woman who is vitamin D deficient is at greater risk for gestational diabetes” says Dr Carol Wagner
Vitamin D supplementation helps boost the immune system, therefore reducing the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. Taking a loading dose of Vitamin D at 4 weeks could greatly reduce the risk of miscarriage, studies show. For best results; start to take Vitamin D prior to conception and continue the supplementation all the way through pregnancy and continue while breastfeeding. It takes time for Vitamin D to penetrate into all of your cells and enhance your overall health, therefore it must be consumed early on in pregnancy or ideally prior to conception to yield the best benefits. Then a daily dose of Vitamin D throughout the pregnancy is advisable.
How much Vitamin D is required?
The base level of Vitamin D required for pregnant women to take is about 50-100 micrograms ( 2,000-4,000 IU ) daily. The benefits are huge and the cost is extremely low at around £20 per year. The higher doses of 100 micrograms ( 4,000 IU ) taken during pregnancy have been proven to result in fewer complications. For breastfeeding mothers the best benefits have been recorded with a higher dose of 6,000 IU per day.
The amount of Vitamin D required as stated by the government varies from country to country. For example the amount of vitamin D advised in Finland is 20 times higher than what the US government suggests.
Everyone agrees that vitamin D is essential for health. The UK Department of health recommends that new-born babies get 10 micrograms ( 400 IU ) of vitamin D daily. The recommendation for people aged 1 or over (including pregnant and breast feeding mothers) is 10 micrograms ( 400 IU ) each day. They suggest that upper limit is 100 micrograms ( 4,000 IU ) Vitamin D researchers state that the recommended dose is enough for bone health, however it is not enough for other issues, especially those related to pregnancy.
Can too much Vitamin D be harmful?
There is some concern that taking too much vitamin D, in the form of supplementation can be harmful. But how much is too much? The USA National Institutes of Health states that the threshold for vitamin D toxicity is between 10,000 and 40,000 IU per day. This would be an extremely large dose of vitamin D. So even the higher dose recommended by experts for breastfeeding mothers is nowhere near the threshold. The European Food Safety Agency gives an upper safety limit for Vitamin D of 100 micrograms ( 4,000 IU ) a day. However,
- It is important to note the about 1 in 300 people have a mild allergic reaction to some Vitamin D supplements, so you might consider taking a mild low dose before taking a large or loading dose.
- Some people are very insensitive to Vitamin D, probably because they are deficient in other important minerals such as Magnesium or Zinc
- What matters is the level in your blood. A group of experts have issued a Call-To-Action suggesting that the optimum level in your blood is 100-150 nmol/L ( 40-60 ng/mL ) You may consider having a blood test to check your Vitamin D level.
The modern sedentary lifestyle requires us to take Vitamin D supplementation to ensure overall health. This is especially true for pregnant women, those breast feeding or couples who are trying to conceive. The lifestyle factors that impact our health are changes such as: more time spent indoors on multimedia devices, more indoor jobs, spending way less time outdoors, air pollution (which reduces Vitamin D), modern agriculture methods and more obesity – to mention but a few factors that impact our Vitamin D intake. Therefore, it is increasingly important to ensure adequate nutrition through supplementation to have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
For more information:
Vitamin D Wiki
Vitamin D Council
Vitamin D Association
Grass Roots Health