Before the era of Dr. Mehmet Oz, when doctors discussed vitamin D, it was usually in the context of reducing fractures in the elderly or third-world children getting rickets. To his credit, Dr. Oz was one of the first physicians to bring the importance of vitamin D to the mainstream and physicians are now ordering vitamin D levels as part of their routine exams.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s absorbed in fat. It is usually obtained from drinking milk, juice, fish oils and dietary supplements. It is also made in the skin when it’s exposed to sunlight. Until recently, people were under the assumption that sun exposure and drinking milk was sufficient to obtaining enough vitamin D but we now realize that they were wrong. Vitamin D allows the body to absorb calcium, promote minerals and growth in bone. Vitamin D deficiencies are associated not only the elderly but with all populations, including pregnant women.
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), recent medical studies have suggested that vitamin D deficiency is common in pregnant women, including those who are vegetarians, live in cold climates, wear protective winter clothing or use sun screens. Pregnant women who have naturally tan or dark skin are also affected. Vitamin D deficiencies in pregnant women are associated with bone fractures in their newborn babies and congenital rickets (a disease that softens bones causing increased bone fractures). Although pregnant women are prescribed prenatal vitamins that contain 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D, we now know that that pregnant women need a higher dose of 600 international units in order to be effective according to the 2010 Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine and some experts think the dose should be raised as high as 1,000 international units per day. The next time you have a prenatal visit, be sure to discuss this issue with your healthcare provider.
Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen, it takes a smart mother who knows what to do.