Pregnancy places additional demands on your body. Foetal development and growth increase your body’s requirements for vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium which is required for growth of the foetal skeleton.
Thankfully, it is relatively easy to incorporate vitamin D into your daily intake. Simply ensure your skin obtains adequate amounts of sunlight. In the skin UVB rays will convert to vitamin D into vitamin D3 (colecalciferol). Sufficient sunlight to maintain adequate vitamin D levels can be difficult, especially during winter months, so supplementation is a viable option.
Pregnant women who have little exposure to sunlight, especially those who have darker skin tones or wear concealing clothing for cultural or religious reasons, have an increased risk of vitamin D insufficiency. This group could benefit from vitamin D supplements and possibly dietary adjustment. Vitamin D is found in a limited range of foods, these include; eggs, butter, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, fatty fish such as herrings, tuna, salmon and sardines, beef, liver and fortified foods such as fortified milk.
Vitamin D status should be checked early in pregnancy so that vitamin D insufficiency can be corrected. Your GP will be able to assist with a simple blood test to determine your current vitamin D status and can suggest appropriate supplementation where necessary.
Vitamin D for mums and infants
Vitamin D is an important vitamin for mums and infants. It is essential for the maintenance of health, avoidance of skeletal problems in adults and infants, and the maintenance of a healthy immune system. It is also needed for optimal bone mineralisation for children and infants.
Not all mums and infants get enough vitamin D from sunlight. For this group, vitamin D supplementation may be beneficial. The recommendation for vitamin D supplementation of infants and children in at-risk groups are:
- annual measurement of vitamin D in dark-skinned or veiled infants, children and adults
- screening for simple vitamin D insufficiency in the first trimester of pregnancy for dark-skinned or veiled women
- vitamin D supplementation (400IU daily) in breastfed infants of dark-skinned or veiled women until 12 months of age
- preventative daily 400IU vitamin D supplementation in at-risk groups
Daily sunshine is a great source of vitamin D, but whilst obtaining this essential nutrient in this way, it’s important to observe safe sun exposure practices also.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology website provides a daily UV sunlight forecast for locations around Australia. This information can help you decide the safest times to be in the sun.
How common is low vitamin D in infants?
In many populations worldwide low vitamin D status or insufficiency has become increasingly recognised as a problem. This may be a result of many children and infants not receiving adequate sunlight to synthesise vitamin D in their skin.
Is vitamin D required for conception?
It’s best to prepare your body for pregnancy through good nutrition before becoming pregnant. This will ensure you give your baby the best possible start to life. If you are not confident that your vitamin D levels are optimal to support a successful and healthy conception, visit your GP to discuss testing.