During pregnancy your body is working almost as hard a world-class endurance athlete (check out this recent research for the full intel). So it’s not surprising that your body will have more nutritional needs to ensure it’s functioning effectively. There are some vitamins and minerals that really do make a big difference to both you and baby during and after pregnancy – Vitamin D is one of them.
What’s the big deal with Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and overall health. It is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies can produce it when our skin is exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin D is important for several bodily functions, including the absorption of calcium from the small intestine, which is necessary for bone growth. It also plays a role in immune function, cell growth, and neuromuscular function.
Why is it important to take Vitamin D during pregnancy?
During pregnancy all the organs and systems in your body are working super hard, not only to support your body but to grow a little person. Here are some of the ways Vitamin D helps your body do its thing:
- Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for baby’s growing bones, kidney, heart, nervous system and teeth development. Without enough Vitamin D, the body may not be able to absorb these minerals properly, which can lead to softer bones in both the mother and the developing baby.
- Vitamin D is important for the proper functioning of the immune system. During pregnancy, the mother’s immune system undergoes changes to protect the developing baby, and adequate Vitamin D levels can help support this process to ensure both mum and baby stay well.
- Some studies have found that Vitamin D may play a role in reducing the risk of pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in the urine) and gestational diabetes.
- Vitamin D also plays a role in the long-term health of the child. Low Vitamin D levels during pregnancy have been linked to an increased risk of childhood asthma, allergies, and other health problems.
How much Vitamin D should I be taking during pregnancy?
The NHS guidelines recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding people take 10 micrograms (mcg) of Vitamin D each day.
Do not take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of Vitamin D a day as it could be harmful.
Why is Vitamin D important after pregnancy too?
Vitamin D is important if you’re breastfeeding because it helps support the health of both mum and baby.
For the mama, Vitamin D can help maintain healthy bones and teeth, support the immune system, and may reduce the risk of postpartum depression. Breastfeeding mothers who have adequate Vitamin D levels may also have a lower risk of osteoporosis later in life.
For the baby, Vitamin D is important for proper bone growth and development. Babies who are exclusively breastfed are at particular risk of Vitamin D deficiency, as breast milk is a poor source of Vitamin D. If the mother’s Vitamin D levels are low, the baby may not receive enough Vitamin D through breast milk alone.
Is being in the sun enough to get my dose of Vitamin D?
In the UK, summer sunlight (from late March/early April to the end of September) is a key time for when our bodies create more Vitamin D. Generally speaking, 15 minutes a day in the sun, two or three times a week, should be enough to get your dosage. You only need to expose your arms and face to get what you need.
However, it’s important to remember that there are risks from being in the sun for too long, especially when pregnant. We all know that too much sun exposure can increase the risk of skin damage and skin cancer, but this risk is even higher during pregnancy. Changing hormones during pregnancy can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight as well as more prone to skin pigmentation (colouration). Dark, irregular patches of skin called chloasma sometimes appear on your face.
Pregnant women are also at greater risk of overheating so it’s always important to balance sun exposure with skin protection and the other methods of getting Vitamin D.
How can I get my daily dose of Vitamin D?
There are several ways to absorb Vitamin D:
- Sunlight: The body can produce Vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. The amount of sun exposure needed to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D varies depending on factors such as the time of day, season, skin colour, and amount of skin exposed.
- SAD lamp: If you live in the UK, particularly during September – March, you may want to try a sun lamp as a way of topping up your sunlight exposure. One study has even found that they offer benefits for your mental health if you’re feeling low during pregnancy.
- Food: Vitamin D is naturally present in a few foods, such as oily fish (e.g. salmon, tuna, mackerel), red meat and eggs. Some foods, like milk, orange juice, and cereal, are also fortified with Vitamin D.
- Supplements: Vitamin D supplements are available in the form of capsules, tablets, gummies, and liquids. If you’re taking a pre- or postnatal supplement, it’s important to check the quantity of Vitamin D to make sure you’re getting enough.
Where can I get Vitamin D supplements from?
Most supermarkets and chemists stock Vitamin D supplements. This 3-month supply is great value at only £1.00.
If you’re taking a pre- or postnatal supplement, it will normally include Vitamin D but it’s important to check the quantity to make sure you’re getting enough. Like all things in pregnancy, it’s important to talk to your midwife about any concerns you have and listen to their advice and recommendations.
Birthbabe does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.