Vitamin D is said to be a very important vitamin for both- the mother and the baby. It is an essential fat soluble vitamin. The body requires vitamin D during pregnancy and during breastfeeding because it helps maintain the adequate levels of calcium and phosphorus. These help build a baby’s bones and teeth. During pregnancy, the foetus derives Vitamin D exclusively from the mother and vitamin D deficiency can create serious issues. The foetal needs for Vitamin D increases during the third trimester of pregnancy. This is when vitamin D becomes crucial for maternal health, fetal skeletal growth and optimal maternal and fetal outcomes. The vitamin D levels present in Breastmilk correlates with maternal serum levels. A low level of vitamin D in breast milk can have a harmful effect on the newborn. But low levels of vitamin D are a very common problem in pregnant women.
Vitamin D Deficiency?
Despite a wide use of prenatal vitamins, inadequate vitamin D levels are very commonly seen in pregnant women. A blood test will be done as part of your antenatal assessment by your doctor to ensure your Vitamin D levels. If you have low Vitamin D levels you will be advised to do the following:
- increase exposure to sun
- take vitamin D supplements
- increase food sources that have more of Vitamin D in them
River fish, freshwater fish is a very good source of Vitamin D. Eggs, cereals, low fat milk, orange juice are all good sources of vitamin D. Fortified fat spreads like some cheese and yoghurts. Cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin D. The only plant based vitamin D source is shiitake mushrooms.
Also read: 12 Necessary Vitamins That A Breastfeeding Mother Should Not Avoid!
What happens if the body suffers from a Vitamin D deficiency?
Studies have shown that inadequate vitamin D can lead to abnormal bone growth, fractures or rickets in newborn babies. Vitamin D deficiencies have also been linked to high risk pregnancies. Gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, preterm birth, low birth weight, increased risk of infections and caesarean sections are all related to vitamin d deficiencies.
There are some symptoms of Vitamin D deficiencies. These are subtle but if caught at the right time, medical help can be taken. These include feeling of weakness, achy muscles, muscle pains and soft bones which may lead to fractures very easily. A vitamin D deficient mother, if not treated properly can have a baby with a deficiency as well.
Also read: Why do Babies need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy:
During pregnancy and lactation a significant change occurs in maternal vitamin D and calcium metabolism to provide the calcium that is needed for the fetal development. During the first trimester the fetus accumulates 2-3 mg/day in the skeleton. However this rate of accumulation doubles by the third trimester. The body of a pregnant woman adapts to the fetal requirements by increasing the calcium absorption in the first stages of pregnancy.; while maximum absorption happens in the third trimester.
Also read: The Main Causes And Solutions Of Calcium Deficiency In A New Mom
If a pregnant woman has Vitamin D deficiency and is not taking supplement she may have the following risk factors:
- Gestational diabetes
- Having infants small for their age
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Lower birth weight infants
- Likely to deliver through C-section
- Poor postnatal growth
- Increased risk of autoimmune diseases
Are Vitamin D supplements necessary?
Vitamin D supplements should be taken every day by pregnant and breastfeeding women, if their vitamin D is low. Research has not shown any harmful effects of taking Vitamin D supplements. If a woman has been vitamin D deficient during pregnancy then she would be required to take supplements even after the birth of the baby, for 3 to 6 months; more if she is breastfeeding. The paediatrician may also advise vitamin D supplement for the baby and it should not be stopped until the doctor says so.
Also read: 10 Superfoods For New Mothers
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