Often when a woman gets pregnant she will turn her attention to what vitamins to take, even if she was previously not concerned with nutrition. That’s because the medical community has done a good job alerting people to the importance of prenatal nutrition for the baby’s development.
While it’s not the only vitamin necessary, new research shows vitamin D supplementation alone by expectant mothers helps the baby avoid a low birthweight and could keep the mother from experiencing a wide range of health issues. Among them is gestational diabetes, postpartum hemorrhaging and pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure.
Cristina Palacios, professor in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at Florida International University, has spent more than a decade studying the effects of vitamin D supplementation and was surprised by her recent findings. She conducted a systematic review of 30 completed trials involving more than 7,000 women and discovered vitamin D by itself provides those health benefits.
"This is quite impressive, as usually we do not see such an effect from only one vitamin," Palacios said.
Vitamin D is naturally produced by the body in response to sun exposure on the skin. It can also be obtained relatively inexpensively through supplementation.
"Currently, only a few countries (including the U.S.) recommend vitamin D supplementation as part of the prenatal care," Palacios said. "Based on the lack of evidence reported in the previous systematic reviews (2012 and 2016), the WHO (World Health Organization) did not recommend provision of vitamin D supplements during pregnancy as part of routine antenatal care (WHO 2016). However, the WHO is now updating this guideline based on newer evidence from the 2019 systematic review."
Palacios said vitamin D deficiency is a problem worldwide, particularly during pregnancy. She said vitamin D helps the baby’s development of brain, muscle and bone structure, as well the immune response system.
If you want more information about prenatal nutrition, check out the article and resources compiled by KC and Monica Craichy on our website. Click here to read about Super Pregnancy.