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Customized Pregnancy Nutrition and Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a critical nutrient during pregnancy, but new research shows that each women’s individual situation calls for more tailored nutrition advice when it comes to suggesting supplementation.


Vitamin D is a very important nutrient in all phases of life as it supports immune function, healthy cell division and bone health. Researchers are also learning about its critical role during pregnancy as supplements may reduce the risk of complications such as gestational diabetes, preterm birth and infection.

However, we are all individuals with unique attributes that suggest that nutrition advice not be handled as a “one size fits all” recommendation.

Researchers with The University of Southampton have published an article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that shows that pregnant women respond differently to vitamin D supplementation based on certain risk factors.

For example, women who delivered babies in the summer had higher vitamin D levels that those who delivered in the winter. This is actually not surprising, as our bodies make vitamin D through sun exposure. But it does show that perhaps those delivering in the winter should aim toward the higher end of the reference range with supplements and should probably start them earlier in pregnancy to receive the maximum benefit.

Other situations that affected vitamin D levels included excess weight gain – these women had lower vitamin D levels than those who gained less weight. Also, those who had better vitamin D levels prior to becoming pregnant were more likely to maintain optimal concentrations – emphasizing the need for prenatal care.

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Professor Nicholas Harvey, who led the study with Dr Rebecca Moon, comments: "It is important for pregnant women to have sufficient levels of vitamin D for the health of their baby. Our study findings suggest that in order to optimise vitamin D concentrations through pregnancy, the supplemental dose given may need to be tailored to a woman's individual circumstances, such as the anticipated season of delivery."

In 2010, the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the national Academies established the recommendation that during pregnancy and lactation, women take 600IU per day of Vitamin D. Most prenatal vitamins typically contain 400 IU, so additional supplements may be necessary if food sources are lacking (such as intake of dairy).

If a woman is determined to be deficient in Vitamin D, a higher intake of 1,000 to 2000 IU per day is safe – but of course all women should check with the doctor first before increasing supplements.

One thing to keep in mind as well – in the study, women who were consistent with supplements were more likely to have improved vitamin D levels over those who were not.

Journal Reference:
Rebecca J. Moon, Nicholas C. Harveyet al. Determinants of the Maternal 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Response to Vitamin D Supplementation During Pregnancy. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2016; jc.2016-2869 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2016-2869

Additional Resource: American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Photo Credit:
Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons