Vitamin D Supplements in Pregnancy
Vitamin D is a vitamin which everybody needs, not just pregnant women. This vitamin regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, and helps your bones to absorb the calcium which they need. Without this mineralization, your bones would become brittle and misshapen. Before the U.S. government began to add vitamin D to milk in the 1930’s, many children suffered from rickets – skeletal deformities.
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
It is suggested that adults, ages 19 to 50, have at least 200 international units of vitamin D a day. A tablespoonful of cod liver oil has over 1000, whereas a 3 l/2 oz tin of cooked salmon or sardines will have over 270. Ready to eat cereals have about 40, and one quart of milk contains 400 international units.
A Dose of Sunshine
Another very important source of vitamin D is sunshine. This is because sunlight helps our skin to synthesize Vitamin D. It has been suggested that one get at least l5 minutes of sunshine, at least twice a week; but the amount of sunlight that one receives is affected by the latitude, the season of the year, smog cover, and how long one’s skin is exposed to the light.
People who cover up completely, or who are wearing sunscreen (which is necessary to protect against ultra violet rays) will absorb less sunshine. Also, the darker the skin, the less sunshine one absorbs. Dark skinned women living in northern countries may be particularly vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency, absorbing up to 5 times less sunlight than lighter skinned women.
Pregnancy and Vitamin D
It is asked how much vitamin D does a pregnant women require? After all, a mother would like her baby to have the best start in life possible, and this begins way before birth – in the womb itself. The food that the mother eats and the vitamins that she ingests will help the growing fetus to develop its best mind and body possible. It has been observed that Vitamin D helps calcium to be transferred across the placenta to the fetus, and that women who had a healthy diet with vitamin D rich foods had children whose bones were stronger.
As part of prenatal care, pregnant women are routinely prescribed 400 International units (or l0 micrograms) of vitamin D daily. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, however, it has not yet been determined scientifically exactly how much vitamin D supplementation a pregnant woman requires.
Professor James Walker of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said that a study at Southampton General Hospital in Britain showed that only women who did not have enough vitamin D in their diet had a health problem with their children. "More vitamin D is not necessarily good," he said. "Therefore, no woman should take extra vitamin D in pregnancy unless recommended by their doctor."
The best advice for now, therefore, is to check with your doctor. The color of your skin, your diet, and the amount of sunshine you are exposed to will all affect how much vitamin D you should be prescribed. And, it does not matter how much sunshine you get now; it will be but a small reflection of the sunshine that a healthy baby will bring into your life.