What is Vitamin D and Why Is It So Important in Pregnancy?
Vitamins are essential, organic compounds that our bodies need to thrive, and are mostly found in food, apart from vitamin D, which is mostly sourced directly from sunlight.
It is one of the most essential vitamins and so incredibly vital for the growth of your baby in utero. The nutrients from vitamin D support fetal bone development and formation, and support a healthy birth weight. Studies have shown that suggests women with low vitamin D during pregnancy are more likely to have complications such as gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia – a serious -condition in pregnancy associated with developing high blood pressure and severe maternal or fetal outcomes if not attended to immediately.
How Will I Know If I Am Low In Vitamin D?
A blood test is done as part of your antenatal assessment to check your vitamin D levels. This can be arranged by your GP or by Dr Elgey at your initial obstetric consultation. It is important to have your levels checked early in your first trimester at the start of fetal development.
If your test returns on the lower threshold, you will be advised to increase your sun exposure and/or take a vitamin supplement, especially in pregnancy and also when breastfeeding to help support the healthy development of your baby. The amount of extra vitamin D needed depends on how low your levels are. Dr Elgey, or your obstetrician managing your obstetric care, will monitor your levels and recommend the right treatment for you.
How Often Do I Need To Take Vitamin D?
A multi-vitamin should be taken every day while pregnant and breastfeeding if your vitamin D level is low and your GP or Obstetrician will advise you of the recommended dose for you. Vitamin D is stored in fatty tissue, so this too will affect the dosage recommended to you.
Can I Rely Directly On Sunlight To Boost My Vitamin D Levels?
Yes, we are fortunate to live in a country with sun exposure all year round. Vitamin D deficiency in women in Australia is particularly low, though we must be mindful of a proportional balance of sunlight to avoid the risk of skin cancer and we must always apply SPF sunscreen so we can enjoy our all-year round sun safely! We advise for sun exposure in summer to be avoided between 11am and 3pm. Although we know this isn’t always easy, so our team have selected their go-to daily SPF for sun protection! You can check out our favourite sunscreen picks here!
A deficiency is more likely to be correlated with women who have very low sun exposure (perhaps fairer skin), those who stay indoors more often and women who wear clothing with minimal skin exposure. If you have a raised BMI or are at risk of obesity, you may also be at risk as a result of poor gut absorption or liver disease. In these instances an oral supplement will be recommended to you by your treating GP or obstetrician.
If you are pregnant or trying to fall pregnant and would like to learn more about how vitamin D can affect your pregnancy, chat to our reception team when booking your next appointment and we will book you in for a blood test with Dr Elgey to test for your vitamin D level.