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Attention All Pregnant Women: Is Your Doctor Neglecting This Test?

Submitted by Annie White on November 10, 2010

Pregnancy can be tough on your body, mind and sometimes your physical health. It is crucial to give your body all of the tools it requires while your baby grows. A simple vitamin D test can help eliminate some of the risks associated and help you have a healthier pregnancy.

For everyone, vitamin D contributes to the functions of the immune system, insulin regulation, heart health, brain function, and muscle strength; research also suggests this robust vitamin could reduce the risk of developing cancer.  For women who are pregnant we see its importance in a new study that shows women who develop preeclampsia (a condition related to increased blood pressure and kidney problems) during pregnancy have low levels of vitamin D.  When you consider the benefits of such an accessible vitamin, it becomes obvious that everyone should make sure they get their daily allowance. The problem is that the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for vitamin D is not enough to achieve optimum health and if you are pregnant, you need more than you think.

Vitamin D is the one vitamin that our body can produce, but it does so only when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Women with darker skin are prone to vitamin D deficiency because this process is not as efficient for them.  Although there are some vitamin D rich foods out there, their benefit is minimal in comparison to sun exposure. Talk to your doctor about increasing your vitamin D levels and don’t be so reluctant to skip the sunscreen when you take an afternoon stroll.  And as it gets chillier, what’s more relaxing then reading or napping near a sunny window. It’s especially important to be mindful of this in the months while you’re pregnant and nursing to give your baby a strong start and you, a healthier pregnancy. 

How vitamin D prevents pregnancy complications.

Vitamin D is not just a simple vitamin.  It produces multiple internal effects that repair and maintain many body organs.  This includes regulating proteins in the placenta that are involved with preeclampsia.

What’s more, research shows that women who take 4,000 IUs of vitamin D each day reduced their risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and preeclampsia – serious complications in pregnancy – by a significant 30 percent.  Research has uncovered a few more benefits of taking higher doses of vitamin D:

  • The risk of delivering a premature baby is cut in half.
  • Small for date birth weight is reduced.
  • Fewer respiratory infections as well as gum and vaginal infections.
  • Babies receiving higher amounts of vitamin D contract fewer colds.

Optimizing vitamin D levels is crucial.  As it stands right now, the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 400 IU.  Many experts believe this level is way too low and for pregnant women, and recommend around 4,000 IUs – that’s 10 times the current recommended dosage.

If you’re like most pregnant women, you’re deficient in vitamin D.

Over 67% of the women involved in the research had vitamin D levels less than 20 ng/ml, a serious state of vitamin D deficiency.  Over 87% of newborns were deficient as well.  That’s why the researchers recommend optimizing vitamin D to all expectant mothers so that they safeguard their own health, and their babies’ health as well.

However, don’t assume your doctor will automatically test your vitamin D level during your prenatal visits.  You will have to ask, as it’s not standard practice.  Findings from the latest research may soon make it mandatory, but for now, you must be proactive and let your doctor know you’re concerned.  You should strive for a minimum blood level of 50 ng/ml.  It’s likely your results will state you are in the normal range even your below 50 ng/ml because, just like the RDA, the lab reference ranges are far too low.

In the meantime, talk to your doctor about increasing your vitamin D allowance to 4,000 IUs a day.  If you spend less than one hour in the sun each day, you could need as much as 10,000 units a day. Your health and your baby’s well-being could depend on it.

By: Sylvia Anderson