Vitamin D During Pregnancy
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Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is probably more important for your baby's health than most other nutrients.
Vitamin D is so vital to your baby's health that deficiencies have been misdiagnosed as child abuse by doctors who weren't aware of how deficiency of this vital nutrient can affect infant health.
What is it?
Vitamin D, in its biologically active form of cholecalciferol, or D3, is part of an intricate natural steroid hormone system. It has positive effects on almost every cell in the body. It is vital for the immune system, body density and development, muscle development and inflammation. It can even ease menstrual cramps.
In short, vitamin D does a hell of a lot to increase your chances of a healthy, happy baby. It will help your baby's immune system, bone development and muscle development, among many other things.
Vitamin D is a naturally occurring vitamin that we actually make from sunlight. You can get it through diet, but not in adequate quantities for optimal mother and baby health.
What does it do?
Loads! Here is what you need to know about vitamin D and your baby's health.
Vitamin D is so essential to the development of your baby during pregnancy that deficiency in the mother can lead to babies being born with rickets or improperly formed skeletons.
Deficiency in mothers during pregnancy and breast feeding has even led to some heart wrenching stories in which families have been torn apart by false accusations of child abuse or neglect. An alarming number of cases both here and in the US have been covered in mainstream media.
Children have been taken away from their parents with broken bones. When examined by a doctor aware of the importance of vitamin D and tested, the babies are dangerously deficient. When vitamin D treatment is administered the fractures disappear and the babies regain health. Upon testing, the mothers have been found to be dangerously deficient in vitamin D. Therefore so is their breast milk.
These situations are easily avoided by better awareness of the importance of vitamin D and its role in prenatal health and infant development.
Until recently it was thought that all vitamin D did was regulate bone density. We now know that it does a whole lot more than that. Once blood levels reach 125nmol/L vitamin D starts to affect much more than just bones. At these levels it has positive effects on the immune system, is anti cancerous and can even help your muscles get stronger.
Many doctors today do not realize that vitamin D is so important to your baby's health during pregnancy and breast feeding. This is because of two main reasons.
- Doctors are busy people. They simply do not have the time to read through all the latest research in all areas of medicine to keep up to date with the latest developments. Because vitamin D research is fairly recent, many doctors simply haven't heard of the new findings yet.
- Nobody gets rich from the production of a vitamin that cannot be patented. New drugs get thrown in the face of doctors by pharmaceuticals all the time. Research gets funded quickly and repeatedly if profit can be made. As a result, doctors are made aware of new drug developments quickly, yet this does not happen with a nutrient nobody owns. (You can't charge for sunlight).
How much do I need?
There is a charity called the Vitamin D Council, ran by Dr John Cannel, one of the world's leading authorities on vitamin D. It is well worth a look and gives detailed scientific breakdowns of every health condition linked to vitamin D and posts regular updates about research and related news.
The Vitamin D Council recommends a healthy blood level of 125nmol/L.
Being a fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin D dosing is not just as simple as 'take X and you'll be fine'. You should get your levels checked and see how deficient you are. Ask for your doctor's advice on dosing to get you up to 125nmol/L.
Some doctors may not be knowledgeable about dosing or may not see a problem with lower levels. We have taken the liberty of drafting you a letter to print off and give to your doctor that should persuade them to test you and take an interest!
A good starting point for most people, and a dose advocated by the Vitamin D Council, is 5000IU per day of supplementation. In most people this should be enough to safe guard your child from any severe deficiency conditions such as rickets, with no risk of toxicity.
Alternatively, get your body out in the sun without sunscreen for 10 minutes a day and make it naturally.
Where do I get it from?
Unfortunately we get little vitamin D from our food. Unless you are eating reindeer liver a few times a week you aren't getting ample amounts from food. Eggs are often quoted as containing vitamin D and this is true, but the average egg contains only 17IU. So to get enough from eggs you would have to eat around 290 whole eggs a day, not enjoyable or advisable!
This is how we are designed to get our vitamin D. In fact, the reason we are so deficient is that we spend much less time in the sunlight than we evolved to do. We work inside, dress head to toe and wear sunscreen, whereas our ancestors walked around naked in Africa!
Between September and March in the UK it is impossible to get enough vitamin D from the sun. There are very little UVB rays getting through the atmosphere as the angle is too great. Between April and August on a sunny day getting outside with bare skin and no sunscreen for about ten minutes should easily make you 10,000IU.
Make sure you get vitamin D3 not vitamin D2. Supplements are readily available, relatively inexpensive and generally of good quality. Commonly made from sheep's wool, they are vegetarian friendly as long as the capsule is not made of gelatine. Take around 5000IU on days where you do not get ample sunlight exposure or as directed by your healthcare provider.