Getting Enough Vitamin D during Pregnancy

Food sources of vitamin D: Salmon (5oz filet pictured has 750 IU), milk (12 oz pictured has 170 IU), egg (40 IU), cheese (6 IU per cube)

Food sources of vitamin D

Vitamin D is finally getting its day in the sun. {nutrition humor}

Vitamin D deficiency in adults has been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and more. But what about pregnant women and their babies? There’s critical research here. Consider…

Sufficient vitamin D levels are linked to:

  • mother’s fertility
  • mother’s IVF success
  • baby’s bone development as a fetus and child
  • baby’s immune function

Deficient vitamin D levels are linked to:

  • mother’s higher rate of C-section births
  • baby’s potentially smaller birth weight and birth defects
  • baby’s risk of Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia

vitamin d foods

3 things you need to know about vitamin D & pregnancy:

  1. Vitamin D crosses from mom to baby through the placenta. Mom’s levels of vitamin D are directly correlated to baby’s levels of vitamin D at birth.
  2. Some pregnant women are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency. If you have dark skin color, wear clothing that covers most of your skin (burka, veil, etc.), live in a place with little sun or are obese, you’re at risk. If you suspect a vitamin D deficiency before or during pregnancy, ask your ob-gyn for a blood test.
  3. Why does body weight matter? Because vitamin D is stored, and ultimately trapped, in fat cells and made unavailable to the body. Ob-gyns in the UK have higher vitamin D recos during pregnancy for larger women. US recos don’t vary based on body weight (yet).

How to get enough vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish are an excellent source of vitamin D. The FDA recommends pregnant women limit salmon to 12oz/week to minimize mercury exposure.

    Fatty fish are an excellent source of vitamin D. The FDA recommends pregnant women limit salmon to 12oz/week to minimize mercury exposure.

    Take your prenatal vitamin. But that’s not enough, mamas! Most prenatals have only 400 IU, and we need at least 600 IU per day during pregnancy (and breastfeeding, and every other time in adulthood). 400 IU was the old recommendation. We’re now at 600 IU, thanks to vitamin D research compelling enough to change national guidelines. Time to supplement your supplement.

  • Consider a separate vitamin D supplement, especially if you have any of the risk factors above. If you don’t want to take extra pills, try the concentrated vitamin D drops for infants. One drop has 400 IU and can be added to any beverage or food (it’s tasteless), or dropped straight onto your tongue.

  • Eat vitamin D-rich foods:
    • 1/2 halibut filet has 1220 IU vitamin D
    • 3oz salmon filet has 447 IU
    • 1cup vitamin D-fortified milk or soymilk has 115 IU
    • One egg has 40 IU
  • Sunlight exposure creates vitamin D in the skin. Researchers recommend 5-30 mins of sun exposure during peak times (10am-3pm) at least twice a week, without sunscreen.

Here’s the takeaway, pregnant friends:

Take your daily prenatal, then aim for one more source of vitamin D in your day. Cook salmon for dinner, add a drop of liquid vit D to your water bottle, or take a 20-minute walk outside.

And don’t stop once baby arrives! Vitamin D is passed through breastmilk, but baby’s adequate supply still depends on mom’s supply.

May 3, 2016

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