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Vitamin D Deficiency During Pregnancy

We wanted to talk to you about a scientific study regarding Vitamin D and pregnancy. WHY? Because it scared us and it should scare you.

So what is it?

This study looked at maternal vitamin D levels and their baby's vitamin D levels after birth-- the results were shocking. The researchers found that "76% of moms and 81% of newborns in the USA were Vit D deficient at the time of birth - even though they were taking a prenatal supplement." 

If your reaction was anything like ours, you are probably saying something along the lines of "Is this a joke?" or "How is that even possible? Even with a multivitamin?" 

Here's why this is important:

Breastmilk is relatively low in vitamin D, and like iron, babies typically rely on their stores they collected before birth before beginning additional supplementation.

"If this is the case --why does it matter if they are deficient, aren't we supplementing anyway?" And the answer is yes... but also no.

If a baby is born deficient in vitamin D-- this means that they most likely did not receive enough Vitamin D during their developmental stages of pregnancy.

Why is this a problem?

Vitamin D deficiency could lead to a potential negative impact on their overall growth and development (such as risk for rickets). This is a bone disease associated with vitamin D deficiency that is seen through a softening and weakening of the bones. Other symptoms of deficiency include impaired growth and wound healing--both important due to the fact that the first few years of an infants life---including their time in the womb, are all about GROWING!

So what can we do about this?

Every practitioner will tell you in the face of possible nutrient deficiency, that a multivitamin supplement is the best option. But in this case it might not be the case...

Now we aren't saying your multivitamin is worthless and you should just toss it in the garbage--- it is still helpful! However, as you can see in this blog post (here), we know that we shouldn't rely on 100% of the multivitamin to meet all of our pregnancy needs.

No need to fear--- FOOD IS HERE!

We are 100% food first believers! If we learn to include foods in our diet high in Vitamin D-- the prenatal vitamin becomes a safety net (rather than NECESSITY).

So what happened with these women who did not meet their vitamin D needs even with a prenatal supplement? It was either one of two things, or a combination of both.

1) They did not eat enough foods with vitamin D in them. Foods such as dairy products, mushrooms, eggs, salmon, to name a few!

2) They did not receive enough SUNSHINE! Because YES your body synthesizes vitamin D from the sun! How cool is that? 

Fun fact: Breastmilk is lower in Vitamin D because your baby is VERY good at synthesizing it from the sun-- for this reason, make sure your baby is only exposed to UV rays for short durations of time due to their increased sensitivity! 

In conclusion:

While pondering the question of how to avoid vitamin D deficiency in moms and babies---we came to these three conclusions:

1) Make sure you are eating plenty of foods that contain Vitamin D! And step out into the sunshine for those Vitamin D synthesizing UV rays.

2) Check your prenatal multivitamin and see how many IUs of vitamin D it contains. If it is less than 400IUs its not enough!

3) Work with a Registered Dietitian that specializes in Maternal Nutrition! They have the unique knowledge on how to incorporate vitamin D into your diet and make internationally recognized Maternal Vitamin D recommendations fit into your lifestyle! (*hint, hint*)

Phew! So glad this problem is solved and we can get back to making sure YOU feel confident that you are making the right choices during your pregnancy and lactation journey! If you are concerned about nutrient deficiencies and want to make sure you're diet is baby proof (tehe), click here and start a conversation with us today! We would love to hear from you and be your hand to hold while you go through such an AMAZING life transition.

Until next time!

Mikayla and Cassie

Mamas Maternal Health Registered Dietitians/Lactation Counselors


 Lee, J. M., Smith, J. R., Philipp, B. L., Chen, T. C., Mathieu, J., & Holick, M. F. (2007). Vitamin D Deficiency in a Healthy Group of Mothers and Newborn Infants. Clinical Pediatrics, 46(1), 42–44.

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