Vitamin D and Pregnancy
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Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin not available through a wide variety of foods. Vitamin D is produced by the body when UV rays from the sun are absorbed through the skin. Many foods are also fortified with vitamin D.
Why do I need it?
Vitamin D is needed for calcium and phosphorus absorption, and is important to bone formation. Vitamin D deficiency is known as rickets, and causes the bones to soften, among other symptoms.
Everyone needs vitamin D. The recommended daily allowance for pregnant women is no higher than for the general population. However, recent studies have found that women with adequate levels of vitamin D have lower incidence of complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and pre-term labour, so it is important to take in enough vitamin D, usually through supplements such as a prenatal multi-vitamin.
How can I be sure I'm getting enough vitamin D?
While vitamin D isn't naturally available in a large number of foods, many foods are fortified with vitamin D such as milk, fortified juices, and breakfast cereals. Cod liver oil is a well-known source of vitamin D as well, however you should not take this while pregnant. Check food labels to be certain that you are getting vitamin D from foods.
The easiest way to get vitamin D is by getting out in the sun. However, due to the risk of skin cancers, most physicians still recommend using sunscreen, which blocks the UV rays that cause the body to produce vitamin D. The safest (in the opinion of most experts) way to get vitamin D is through supplementation. The recommended daily allowance for women of childbearing age is 600 IU (international units) or 15 micrograms.