Pregnancy greatly increases your body's nutritional demands, as both you and your baby are going through major physiological changes. If you are pregnant, you probably already take a prenatal multivitamin to help close nutritional gaps. A balanced, nutritious diet can also help provide a broad spectrum of nutrients to support your baby's healthy physical and mental development. Yet there is one important nutrient that you cannot get from food alone.
Vitamin D is called the "sunshine vitamin" because your body makes it when sunlight hits the skin. In a perfect world, we would all be able to soak up the sunshine vitamin on a tropical beach for nine months. But the reality is that most of us get limited outdoor sun exposure, especially during pregnancy. In fact, vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is common worldwide, leaving many women with a shortfall even before they become pregnant. Once pregnant, vitamin D levels progressively decline, thanks to the body's increased demands.
This is why you may want to consider increasing your vitamin D intake with a supplement. Research indicates that lack of vitamin D is a common problem for pregnant and lactating mothers and their infants.1,2,3 In the northern U.S., where sunlight is more limited throughout the year, one study found that 54% of black mothers, 42% of white mothers, 46% of black newborns, and 54% of white newborns were vitamin D insufficienct at delivery -- despite the fact that over 90% of the mothers took prenatal vitamins.4 Researchers have observed that the amount of vitamin D included in most prenatal multivitamins may not be enough to maintain normal levels.5
Getting enough vitamin D is always important -- it helps your body absorb calcium, build bones, maintain immunity, balance your hormones, and more. But low vitamin D levels during pregnancy can have additional risks for you and your baby. Lack of vitamin D is linked with a higher risk of pregnancy complications, as well as increased risk that your child will be low in vitamin D, which can also have lingering health effects.1,2,3 Here are some of the health risks associated with low vitamin D during pregnancy:
Pregnancy-Induced High Blood Sugar: Many women experience blood sugar complications during pregnancy, and studies indicate that vitamin D status may be an important factor. Studies suggest that improving vitamin D levels with supplements can help reduce the risk of blood sugar imbalances during pregnancy and help normalize blood sugar levels in those with low vitamin D and high blood sugar.6,7
Pregnancy-Induced Low Mood: Several studies link vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women with a risk of experiencing low mood both during and after pregnancy. A recent systematic review concluded that supplementing vitamin D during pregnancy may help reduce the risk of pregnancy-related mood imbalances.8,9
Pregnancy-Induced High Blood Pressure: One dangerous complication that can develop during pregnancy is high blood pressure, often accompanied by swelling of the hands and feet and excess protein in the urine. Research shows that low vitamin D during pregnancy may increase this risk, while supplementing vitamin D during pregnancy is associated with a reduced risk.10,11
Infant Health Risks: Babies in the womb rely on their mother's vitamin D stores for healthy growth and development. Low maternal vitamin D during pregnancy has been linked with increased health risks for the babies once they are born, including lower birth weight, lower bone mineral content, and increased respiratory health issues.2,3,11
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need During Pregnancy?
Official recommendations for vitamin D supplements during pregnancy have not been updated in decades. The Institute of Medicine still recommends supplementing 600 IU vitamin D per day for pregnant women, which is the same amount recommended for non-pregnant women. Most prenatal multivitamins include 400-600 IU vitamin D based on this recommendation. Yet vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency remains prevalent in pregnant women, despite the widespread use of prenatal multivitamins.
Though there is mounting evidence that vitamin D recommendations for pregnant women should be updated, there is still debate over the optimal dose. Recent clinical evidence suggests that doses between 1000-4000 IU of vitamin D per day are safe and beneficial,11 but it's best to consult your doctor about the right amount for you. How much vitamin D you need may vary depending on many factors, including how much vitamin D you get from the sun or from your diet. Women who are vegetarian or vegan, have darker skin, are overweight, or live in the north will likely have an increased need for vitamin D. You may wish to have your vitamin D levels tested to find out if you are low.
Our NATURELO Prenatal Multivitamin includes 800 IU vitamin D3. We also offer a range of plant-based vitamin D3 supplements, including Vegan D3 Whole Food Gummies (1000 IU per gummy) and Vitamin D3 capsules (2500 IU or 5000 IU per capsule), depending on your personal needs.