Most pregnant women can help ensure they’re getting enough vitamin D through prenatal vitamins.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient that allows the body to absorb the calcium necessary for normal bone development. The majority of vitamin D is produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight. People can also obtain vitamin D through fortified milk and juice, fish oils, and dietary supplements. Severe vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been linked with abnormal skeletal development, congenital rickets, and bone fractures in newborns.
“Recent data suggests that vitamin D deficiency is common among pregnant women, particularly among high-risk groups such as vegetarians, those who have limited exposure to the sun, and women with darker skin tones,” said George A. Macones, MD, chair of The College’s Committee on Obstetric Practice.
Some proponents have suggested that all pregnant women be screened for vitamin D deficiency. The problem, says Dr. Macones, is that there is no consensus on what the optimal level of vitamin D should be during pregnancy, nor is it known what the upper limit is in terms of the safety of supplemental doses. The College recommends that only those pregnant women thought to be at increased risk for vitamin D deficiency be tested. Most experts agree that supplementation of 1,000-2,000 IU a day is safe for pregnant women who are clinically deficient in vitamin D. “Anything higher than this has not been studied,” Dr. Macones said.
Until the results of the ongoing randomized clinical trials on vitamin D are completed, most pregnant women can get sufficient vitamin D through sun exposure and perhaps taking prenatal vitamins, said Dr. Macones.
Committee Opinion #495 “Vitamin D Screening and Supplementation During Pregnancy” is published in the July 2011 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
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The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (www.acog.org) is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 55,000 members, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care.