Vitamin D, Made Simple
It seems too easy, doesn’t it? That simply making sure your vitamin D level is between 40-60 ng/ml could be the solution to a variety of health issues facing mothers and newborns. But the pool of research has shown some alarming data.
What does vitamin D research show?
- More than 80% of pregnant women are deficient in vitamin D, including women taking prenatal vitamins.
- Pregnant women deficient in vitamin D have an increased risk of preterm birth.
- African American women are 50% more likely to have a preterm birth than Caucasian women. African American women are also more likely to be vitamin D deficient and have lower vitamin D levels overall than Caucasian women.
- Women with diabetes or high blood pressure are at greater risk of having a preterm birth. Both diabetes and high blood pressure are also associated with low vitamin D levels.
- Women who have infections during pregnancy are at greater risk of having a preterm birth. Low vitamin D levels have been associated with increased risk of infection.
- Women carrying more than one baby (twins, triplets, etc.) are at greater risk of having a preterm birth. This risk factor is not known to be associated with vitamin D.
- Women who smoke or drink alcohol during pregnancy are at greater risk of having a preterm birth. This risk factor is not known to be associated with vitamin D.
Vitamin D FAQs for Pregnancy and Babies
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a natural chemical compound that all the tissues in our bodies use to access the instructions in their genetic blueprints. Following those instructions is how our bodies respond to the stresses and strains of everyday life. Vitamin D is normally made in the skin on exposure to sunlight, but with modern indoor lifestyles and the widespread use of sunscreen, few of us make enough vitamin D to meet our body’s needs, and we are therefore dependent upon supplements.
Isn’t the recommended dose enough?
The recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 600 IU/day, which is the amount that is contained in most pre-natal vitamins. However, nearly every baby born to a mother taking that recommended dose is born vitamin D deficient. More and more scientists and physicians are agreeing that the recommended dose isn’t enough and that the key measure is the vitamin D blood serum level, especially since the dose to attain 40-60 ng/ml varies greatly from person to person.
Why is Vitamin D important during pregnancy?
Vitamin D is important at every stage of life from womb to tomb. It’s particularly important in pregnancy for two reasons. 1) It helps the mother-to-be do the best job she can of providing a healthy environment for the child in her womb. Having adequate vitamin D during pregnancy reduces the risk of premature birth, low birth weight babies, Cesarean sections, and various others of the many complications of pregnancy. And 2) equally important is the fact that vitamin D helps the unborn infant program its own body so as to reduce the risk of a host of disorders that may not appear until many years after birth.
How do I know if I’m making or getting enough vitamin D for me and my baby?
You can’t tell without testing. There is a good blood test for vitamin D, measured as a compound called 25-hydroxy-vitamin D. Most scientists conclude that the woman’s 25-hydroxy-vitamin D level during pregnancy should be at least 40–50 ng/mL.
Why do I have to get a blood test?
Raising your vitamin D level is not as simple as just taking more supplements. That’s because everyone’s body processes vitamin D differently. The only way to be certain that your serum level is between the recommended 40-60 ng/ml is to have a blood test.
Pregnant women may opt to complete a vitamin D blood spot test right from their home. It is quick and easy to complete. Watch this video for details on how to use the vitamin D blood spot test kit.
What if I don’t qualify for this project focus on prenatal outcomes?
If you are more than 17 weeks pregnant or trying to become pregnant, or live in another area, we invite you to sign up with D*action to have your vitamin D level checked and adjust your supplements so that your vitamin D blood level will be in the range of 40-60 ng/ml.
We recommend that you have your serum level checked at least three times: before pregnancy (when possible), at approximately 12 weeks and at 24 weeks.
Based on screening results, supplementation doses can be adjusted, but the recommended starting dose is 4000 IU/day.
I’m taking a prenatal vitamin; do I need to take more?
You probably do. The amount of vitamin D in a prenatal vitamin is not enough to produce a blood level of 40 ng/mL. The only way to tell for sure is to test.
How can I get more vitamin D so my levels improve?
The principal source of vitamin D is your own skin. We manufacture vitamin D only if we expose our skin to UVB radiation, which is less available in the early morning or late afternoon, during winter and at higher latitudes. Sunscreen blocks UVB radiation and prevents the manufacture of vitamin D. You can also get more vitamin D from food (limited), supplements and other UVB sources. There are many good quality vitamin D supplements available over the counter in drug, health food, and grocery stores. If you know what your blood level is, you can make a rough estimate of how much you might need to get to 40 ng/mL. Vitamin D in a dose of 100–150 IU/day will raise the blood level about 1 ng/mL (though this varies widely from person to person). For example, if your blood level is 20ng/mL, you will need at least 2000–3000 IU/d to reach 40 ng/mL.
What if my levels are not going up as expected?
It takes a while for the blood level to respond fully to a change in dose, so you really can’t tell whether a blood level is going up as expected until about three months after increasing a dose. If, at that time, the blood level is not where it should be, you will need to increase the dose.
Is vitamin D safe?
In the doses we are recommending, yes, vitamin D is quite safe. It’s helpful to keep in mind that, with summer sun exposure at mid-day and wearing a bathing suit, your body makes about 15,000 IU in just 15–20 minutes. Yet no one has ever gotten vitamin D poisoning from sun exposure. Moreover, there are no reported cases of vitamin D poisoning at daily oral doses below 30,000 IU.
Does it matter what form of vitamin D I take?
Vitamin D comes in two chemically distinct forms, vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D3 is the form that our bodies make naturally on exposure to the sun. Vitamin D2 is synthesized from plant product precursors. The available evidence indicates that vitamin D3 is substantially more potent than vitamin D2. This is the form we recommend.
Do I need to give my newborn vitamin D?
Yes. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that all babies, whether breastfed or bottle fed need supplemental vitamin D. Average doses will range from 400 to 800 IU/d during the first year of life.
Doesn’t my breast milk have enough vitamin D for my baby?
That depends upon whether you yourself have enough vitamin D. If you have a high blood vitamin D level, the chances are your breast milk will contain vitamin D as well. But it’s important, if you’re depending upon breast milk, that you yourself take your vitamin D every day. Just a day or two off vitamin D, and your breast milk content of vitamin D drops to very low levels.
Should I keep taking vitamin D after pregnancy even if I’m not breastfeeding?
Everybody needs more vitamin D than current lifestyles allow us to generate in our own skins. So, yes, whether pregnant or not, essentially everybody needs more vitamin D.
How much vitamin D should I give my children?
The average requirement is about 35 IU/pound of body weight (75 IU/kg) per day, from all sources. If your children live in a sunny climate and spend a lot of time outdoors, they may need no supplement at all. Otherwise they will need a supplement.
Is there more research behind vitamin D and pregnancy, babies?
For a full list of research and other forms of information, please visit https://grassrootshealth.net/blog-category/pregnancy-breastfeeding-babies.
How can I get involved?
To start a project in your community, to fund, volunteer or participate in any way, please contact Jen Aliano, Project Manager.
Find out if you qualify to participate in the Protect Our Children NOW! project.