Pregnancy and Vitamin D

The importance of vitamin D in pregnancy


A program in South Carolina reduces pre-term births by 60% using vitamin D

A population study of over 1,000 pregnant women at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has demonstrated a 60% lower risk of preterm births if mothers can raise their blood serum levels of vitamin D, reports GrassrootsHealth, a non-profit public health promotion organization.

The goal of the program is to raise mothers’ vitamin D blood serum to 100 nmol/L, a level shown to be the threshold for benefits in previous randomized trials. Mothers who achieved this level had a 60% lower risk of preterm birth compared to those with levels less than 50 nmol/L (the level currently recommended by the Institute of Medicine).

“These findings are another powerful example of the importance of the environment in our human health,” said Roger B. Newman, MD and Director OB/Gyn at MUSC. “Our evolution away from sun exposure over the last hundred years has resulted in widespread vitamin D deficiency which contributes to multiple health consequences including higher and racially disparate preterm birth rates.”

Dr. Newman tested vitamin D levels at the first prenatal visit. If levels were below 100 nmol/L, supplements were prescribed with further testing at 24-28 weeks and again at delivery. Overall, 90% of mothers had initial levels lower than 100 nmol/L.

There were 29,716 preterm births in Canada in 2013, 7.8% of total births (Statistics Canada). Babies born preterm are at a higher risk of various medical problems including respiratory distress syndrome, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disorder, asthma, and hearing and vision loss.

“Vitamin D is a very inexpensive and completely safe therapy that can produce major savings in the health care system, not to mention a better quality of life and health for babies that are born full-term,” said Carole Baggerly, founder of GrassrootsHealth. “Mothers owe it to their babies to check their vitamin D levels and supplement as necessary.”

The program at MUSC included a diverse cross-section of mothers-to-be, ensuring patients were representative of the larger obstetrical population in socio-economic status, race and ethnic groups, pregnancy-related conditions and medical histories. The program found a “clear association” between blood serum levels of vitamin D and the risk of preterm births, and concluded that, “maternal vitamin D status is a modifiable risk factor that can be addressed during the prenatal period.”

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