When a woman is pregnant, eating a well-balanced diet, along with appropriate supplementation, is more important than ever. The pregnant mother is no longer only responsible for her own health, but now her lifestyle choices will also affect the health of her unborn child. Health care professionals advise women to avoid alcohol, smoking, caffeine, and to establish a well-balanced diet, exercise routine and supplementation regimen.
Unfortunately, many prenatal vitamins do not offer adequate vitamin D (400 or 600 IU), which puts pregnant women and their infants at risk for vitamin D deficiency. The consequences of vitamin D deficiency are detrimental, increasing the risk for both pregnancy complications and birth complications.
Despite the abundance of sun, research has found that India has a disproportionately high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency with an estimated 70% to 100% of the general population affected. Many Indian religious and cultural practices do not permit adequate sun exposure.
Due to the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among the general population in India and the potential health consequences of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy, researchers decided to determine the prevalence and risk factors for vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women from Northern India. The researchers measured the vitamin D levels of 418 healthy pregnant women. Vitamin D deficiency was defined by levels less than 32 ng/ml. Women with past or current chronic medical diseases were excluded. Women who had history of using medications that interfere with calcium and vitamin D metabolism were also excluded.
Here is what the researchers found:
- The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was 93.5% (391/418) among the pregnant women.
- A total of 34.44% (144/418) of the pregnant women were found to be severely deficient (< 20 ng/ml).
The researchers discovered the following risk factors for vitamin D deficiency:
- Decreased maternal and paternal education (p < 0.01).
- Lower socioeconomic status (p < 0.01).
- Approximately 25.6% of pregnant women who were recruited in November to February had less severe vitamin D deficiency compared to those recruited in other months (p < 0.01).
The researchers concluded,
“In the present study, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been found to be 93.5 % (391/418) which is a matter of great concern.”
This study clearly shows the dire need of increased vitamin D awareness and knowledge. Most people can easily become vitamin D sufficient through inexpensive vitamin D supplementation, which according to research, may prevent various diseases and complications. However, as illustrated by this study, many people are unaware of the benefits associated with vitamin D supplementation.
The Vitamin D Council exists to address this issue. We hope that you, the readers, will also work towards resolving this public health problem by educating those around you on vitamin D. Together, we can make a difference. We think the evidence shows that pregnant women should take between 4,000 and 6,000 IU/day depending on their 25 (OH)D level. And, if you know a pregnant woman, the nicest gift you could give her is one of our in-home vitamin D test kits.
Tovey, A. New research finds extremely high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women in Northern India. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, 2016.