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Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy

Posted on: September 9, 2011   by  John Cannell, MD


I can’t think of a more vulnerable person than a pregnant woman. She is both responsible for herself and for another human growing inside of her. It is an incredible duty.

In a sad finding (bound for future woe), a group in England, led by Dr. Maryam Parisaei, measured vitamin D levels of 207 women on their first obstetric visit. Fifty-six percent had levels less than 10 ng/ml and an additional 32% had levels less than 20 ng/ml. In all, 88% were severely vitamin D deficient while their babies’ brains were in the process of developing.

M Parisaei, A Govind, J Clements, P Arora, H Lashkari, P Kapila. Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in a North London antenatal population. Obstetric Medicine, September 2011 vol. 4 no. 3 113-116

It was not just the dark-skinned mothers who were deficient; many light-skinned mothers also had low levels. In the words of Dr. Parisaei,

“This was an extremely unexpected finding as it highlights that this is a greater problem than described previously. We were surprised to find that 34% of the women who were deficient would have previously been defined as “low” risk for vitamin D deficiency. This includes ‘white’ women, who were born and brought up in Britain.”

The authors went on to quote a study showing that treatment of pregnant women with a 200,000 IU “Stauss” dose followed by 800 IU/day (more than the 600 IU in standard prenatal vitamins in the USA) left only 30% of the women and only 8% of the babies with levels above 20 ng/ml. The authors concluded,

“…despite the introduction of antenatal guideline (prenatal vitamins), there remains a pressing need to identify both the right dose and timing of vitamin D supplementation. This study highlights the need to urgently review the current recommendation as higher doses and longer duration of prenatal vitamins may be required.”

It is good to see another researcher join our call. We need more.

The only factual mistake I could find was the statement, “Breast milk has little vitamin D even when maternal levels are adequate.” False, as Professor Bruce Hollis has shown, 6,000 IU/day for breast-feeding moms produces breast milk rich in vitamin D. As I have written, the blood level required for breast milk to become rich in vitamin D is by far the most meaningful biomarker of vitamin D adequacy that we have as a species.


7 Responses to Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy

  1. [email protected]

    Wow. And I try to tell pregnant women about vitamin D and they just don’t seem to care about it. They have no fears- they are under the care of the very nice nurses and doctors. Also I remember reading years ago that pregnant women have no fears due to some sort of chemical or something. This is for the safety of the baby. An anxious and fearful mother will not be good for the baby. So they can just sail along carefree.

  2. [email protected]

    It is a sad fact the a great deal of the general public are still completely sold on the smother yourself in sun cream to avoid skin cancer at all costs theory. Even one of my best friends who is a health professional completely covers per 18 month old child in sun cream on a cloudy September day in the UK. Her child is dark skinned!

  3. gerskan

    I am a volunteer in a central Alberta, Canada, unplanned pregnancy help center. We have clients from all backgrounds and health situations. We do not have any nutritional or medical professionals on staff, thus we cannot prescribe or make nutritional suggestions except in the broadest sense. Is there a current brochure available that would be suitable to give to our clients? We do them and their children a huge disservice if we don’t convincingly inform them of the critical need for, and benefits of adequate Vitamin D and sunlight exposure during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

  4. [email protected]

    Increasing vitamin D helped my wife have successful pregnancies. She had low D levels and she had 4 miscarriages. After her levels were raised to 60 ng there were no more issues with MC and 3 healthy children.
    From another aricle, ■Vitamin D deficiency linked to early onset menstruation, it should be apparent that vitamin D levels can affect ovulation. I believe that lifelong deficiency may also explain why some women have more issues with pregnancy when they are over 40 years old.

  5. gerskan

    Thank you to Brant Cebulla for the brochure link. This is a good start. For our purposes, a targeted brochure outlining risks/benefits for pregnant and nursing mothers and children would be the most helpful.

    A dedicated 1-2 page brochure highlighting topics like:
    – brain development/IQ concerns
    -the potential for false accusation of child abuse due to rickets-related fractures etc.
    -Immune system benefits resulting in less sickness;
    would really bring home the critical need for Vitamin D sufficiency in this critical period of life. Thanks .

  6. Rita and Misty

    “How much vitamin D does the mother need so as to ensure an adequate amount in her milk? As with everything else related to vitamin D, there is a lot of individual variation, but it appears that the daily intake must be in the range of 5,000–6,000 IUs. As no surprise, that’s just about the amount needed to reproduce the vitamin D blood levels in persons living ancestral lifestyles today. And while 5,000–6,000 IU may initially seem high, it is important to remember how much the sun produces for us. A single 15 minute whole body exposure to sun at mid-day in summer produces well over 10,000 IU.” – See more at: http://www.stonehearthnewsletters.com/low-vitamin-d-nursing-mothers-leaves-infants-dangerous-shortfall/vitamin-d/#sthash.ZbEi40eI.dpuf


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