From as early as week 12, intestinal absorption of calcium is doubled during pregnancy. The body requires vitamin D during pregnancy to maintain adequate levels of calcium and phosphorus that help your baby build strong bones and teeth.
What happens if you do not consume enough Vitamin D during pregnancy?
Vitamin D deficiency is a common phenomenon during pregnancy. Inadequate level of vitamin D can result in abnormal bone growth, fractures, or rickets in newborns.
Some studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency can also result in pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, gestational diabetes, and low birth weight. However, these claims are not completely verified and require further research.
Vitamin D deficiency can have very subtle symptoms like muscle pain, weakness, pain in the bones and softened bones prone to fractures. At times, the body does not show the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. However, if you have vitamin D deficiency, your baby can also suffer from the same. Most doctors advise that you take a vitamin D test during the first trimester to check for any deficiencies.
Food sources of vitamin D
Fish liver oil, fatty fish, and eggs are natural sources of vitamin D. A lot of food items like cereals, cheese, yogurts etc are fortified with vitamin D as it is not a naturally occurring constituent. Check the labels before buying to ensure that you are purchasing the right variants.
Listed below are some of the best natural sources of vitamin D:
- 85 g canned pink salmon
- 250 ml orange juice, fortified with vitamin D
- 250 ml low-fat milk, fortified with vitamin D
- 1 cup cereal, fortified with vitamin D
- 1 large egg yolk
Factors that interfere with level of vitamin D during pregnancy:
- Obesity: Body fat stores most of the vitamin D made in the skin, therefore, it’s less available to the body.
- Darker skin: People with darker skin have high level of melanin present in the skin. Melanin acts as a sunscreen and reduces the production of vitamin D in the skin.
- Certain medications: Drugs like steroids, anti-seizure medications and cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce absorption of vitamin D from the intestines.
- Fat absorption disorders: Disorders such as Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease, reduce the ability to absorb dietary fat, and hence, lead to lesser absorption of vitamin D.
Though skin uses the sun’s rays to produce vitamin D, some experts suggest limited exposure to the sun during pregnancy. Use of sunblock and proper clothing is recommended. Exposure to sun’s ultraviolet rays can result in pigmentation, causing irregular skin darkening. Therefore, during pregnancy, it is advised to get your daily dose of vitamin D from food or supplements.