• Users Online: 620
  • Home
  • Print this page
  • Email this page
Home About us Editorial board Search Ahead of print Current issue Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 89-92

Pregnancy and Vitamin D

1 Department of Internal Medicine, Smt. Kashibai Navale Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Obst & Gynecology, Smt. Kashibai Navale Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication11-Aug-2014

Correspondence Address:
Jitendra Ingole
Smt. Kashibai Navale Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-9903.138426

Rights and Permissions

Vitamin D insufficiency is common in women across different races of childbearing age. It is being increasingly discovered that vitamin D has many important bodily functions apart from skeletal actions pertaining to Calcium homeostasis. Evidence suggests that the maternal risks due to vitamin D deficiency includes eclampsia, increased risk of gestational diabetes mellitus, glucose intolerance; and fetal risks include risk of rickets, osteoporotic fracture in late adulthood. It may be prudent to include screening of all pregnant women for vitamin D level as a part of routine antenatal care and supplementation be given if found deficient.

Keywords: Maternal and fetal health, pregnancy, vitamin D

How to cite this article:
Ingole J, Ingole S. Pregnancy and Vitamin D. J Mahatma Gandhi Inst Med Sci 2014;19:89-92

How to cite this URL:
Ingole J, Ingole S. Pregnancy and Vitamin D. J Mahatma Gandhi Inst Med Sci [serial online] 2014 [cited 2021 Sep 26];19:89-92. Available from: https://www.jmgims.co.in/text.asp?2014/19/2/89/138426

  Introduction Top

The role of vitamin D during pregnancy and its effect on maternal and fetal health is just beginning to be understood. In the last 5 years, there has been an explosion of published data concerning the immune effects of vitamin D, yet little is known in this regard about the specific immune effects of vitamin D during the pregnancy period. What is clear, however, is that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is rampant throughout the world. [1],[2],[3]

  Epidemiology Top

From early 1980s, when the laboratory test for serum vitamin D level began available, there was surge in diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency. It also became clear in subsequent years to come, that persons having dark skin pigmentation and having less exposure to Sun were amongst majority in deficient group. [1]

But what came as a surprise was high incidence of vitamin D deficiency, even in fair skinned people. The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is thus, widespread equally in developing as well as developed countries. Its presence in pregnant women, carries a special importance due to possible chance of affecting fetus. It may be worthwhile to note that a few years ago, a 14-year-boy lead campaign to Scottish parliament for special importance of vitamin D awareness and recommendation in antenatal care (ANC) program in Scotland. [4]

Although, it is difficult to predict exact figures of pregnant females with vitamin D deficiency in developing countries due to lack of proper data; but nonetheless the condition is also common in India and needs urgent insight on broader level. [5] If certain disorders can be prevented by supplementing with an essential vitamin, it definitely will go a long way toward promotion of better health for expectant mothers and their off springs. Canadian Pediatric Society, in 2007, therefore recommended 2000 IU of vitamin D 3 for pregnant and lactating mothers with periodic blood tests to check levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25(OH)D) and calcium. [6],[7]

  Risk Factors for Vitamin D Deficiency Top

The following are postulated as risk factors for causation of vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy: Lack of sunlight exposure, fat malabsorption, vegetarian diet, drug therapy (steroids, anti-epileptic drugs), deeply pigmented skin and obesity. [8],[9]

Why vitamin D deficiency is important in relation to pregnancy?

Vitamin D deficiency can be linked to maternal and fetal effects. Maternal effect postulated to be due to the deficiency are: Eclampsia, [10] insulin resistance [11] and increased risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. [12]

Fetal effects of vitamin D deficiency are plenty some being short term and others may become apparent in later life. The skeletal role of vitamin D deficiency (in causation of rickets) is well-documented. With severe maternal vitamin D deficiency, the fetus rarely may develop rickets in utero with manifestation at birth. [13] Throughout gestation, if a woman is vitamin D deficient, it appears to impact fetal bone health more than maternal. [14] Vitamin D status during pregnancy also does play a role to certain extent in fetal skeletal development, tooth enamel formation and general fetal growth and development. [15]

Further, cardiovascular risk factors may have origin in fetal vitamin D deficiency. [16] It has also been shown conclusively that cord blood vitamin D level have strong correlation with innate immune response of fetus. [17]

How common is vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women

One recent study highlights the need of vitamin D in pregnancy. Hamilton et al. [18] presented findings in a study conducted on 559 pregnant women in year 2010. Serum sample for vitamin D level (25(OH) vitamin D3) was collected during routine ANC visits by pregnant women. The study revealed widespread vitamin D deficiency across different races African American (48%), hispanic (38%), caucasian/other (14%). [18]

Another study by Javaid et al. [10] concluded that maternal vitamin D insufficiency is common during pregnancy and is associated with reduced bone-mineral accrual in the offspring during childhood.

  Diagnosis Top

Vitamin D deficiency should be suspected in a pregnant woman having low exposure to Sunlight, vegetarian dietary habits. Other clinical symptoms such as joint pain(s) may be non-specific. Thus, estimation of vitamin D level by laboratory remains the accurate way of assessing the deficiency and its severity. [13]

The correct test to order for is serum 25(OH) vitamin D test. It may be noted, that another test vitamin D, 1,25 dihydroxy does not reflect true status of vitamin D deficiency. Studies have shown that the vitamin D, 1,25 dihydroxy level does not significantly change until 25(OH) vitamin D, drops to levels that are considered severe vitamin D deficiency. [19]

There seems to be a lot of conflicting reports about adequate level of vitamin D. [20] However many experts accept a range 75 nmol/L (≥30 ng/mL) as optimal. Further, controversy also exists regarding the optimum concentration of vitamin D in pregnancy. Most experts, though, agree that serum vitamin D levels below 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL) represent deficiency. [13],[22] However, this current practice is based on the skeletal actions of the vitamin and it is yet not clear whether the same values of vitamin D Level are for applicable for pregnancy or not.

  Therapy Top

Currently, women of reproductive age are assumed to be able to obtain the recommended intake for vitamins and no national organization recommends routine vitamin D supplementation during the pregnancy period. The US Preventive Services Task Force does not comment for or against routine screening for vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women. [19] Further, there is a lot of information and misinformation about vitamin D and suggestions about timing, dose, route of vitamin D supplementation.

But now, given the fact that vitamin D deficiency is much more common [10],[18] than thought of, pharmacotherapy remains the practical and feasible option for correcting vitamin D levels. There are wide differences of thoughts over what should be the recommended dose for vitamin D. An important point to note here is that vitamin D deficient patients do require higher doses than recommended for prophylaxis against vitamin D deficiency. Recently, Institute of Medicine (USA) suggested that adequate dose for vitamin D needs to be 2000 to maximum 4000 IU/day. Whilst this may appear as very large dose, but there are no known teratogenic effects until date found to be due to vitamin D supplementation.

In yet another study, wherein supplementation of oral cholecalciferol in a 10 day course of 50,000 IU (Total dose 5 Lac IU), did not cause toxicity such as hypercalcemia. [21] suggesting that concern of vitamin D toxicity is probably much feared than actually found in clinical practice.

A recent randomized controlled trial with 350 women of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds showed that 4000 IU vitamin D/day is most effective in improving the vitamin D status of pregnant women, attaining circulating levels of at least 40 ng/mL (100 nmol/L) for 25(OH)D. [22]

Vitamin D supplementation during lactation

Human milk contains little vitamin D (approximately 20 IU/L) and women who are vitamin D-deficient provide even less to their breastfed infants, [18] Lactating women given 4000 IU of vitamin D3/day not only had an increase in the level of 25(OH)D to more than 30 ng/mL but were also able to transfer enough vitamin D3 into their milk to satisfy an infant's requirement.

The vitamin is available as ergocalciferol (also called vitamin D2); and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3 activated form). Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) is preferred over ergocalciferol for replenishment.

Cholecalciferol is available in oral form sachet containing 60,000 international units (IU); Tablets containing 1000 IU; or Injection form (aqueous solution vitamin D3 of strength 6 Lac IU). For routine supplementation for pregnant women, sachet containing 60,000 IU of vitamin D3 may be used with added advantage of being non-invasive route of administration.

Should vitamin D be incorporated in national level maternal and child health care program

Serum level of vitamin D may be measured as routine before planning for pregnancy/during antenatal visit check-up. And if found deficient vitamin D may be given as short course supplementation (Sachets form) during routine follow-up visits of pregnant woman. As the vitamin is fat soluble, short course supplementation may also suffice purpose and also improving patient compliance.

  Areas of Uncertainty Top

Whilst majority of trials carried until recently were highlighting importance of vitamin D in bone and mineral metabolism, the non-skeletal effects such as effect on pregnancy, fetus are getting discovered. Thus, effects of supplementation for skeletal benefit versus non skeletal benefit also remains an area of research. [11],[12] Whether it is vitamin D alone which is responsible for important functions during pregnancy or whether it is complex interplay between genetics, epigenetics and some other factors? Would supplementation of vitamin D carry equal benefits amongst all given pregnant women? What if vitamin D deficiency is detected late in pregnancy Would supplementation will still be of any value in such case? These questions still remain elusive until date.

  References Top

1.Specker B. Vitamin D requirements during pregnancy. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1740S-7.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Kazemi A, Sharifi F, Jafari N, Mousavinasab N. High prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women and their newborns in an Iranian population. J Womens Health (Larchmt) 2009;18:835-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Hollis BW, Wagner CL. Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy: An ongoing epidemic. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:273.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Available from: http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/glasgow_and_west/8396818.stm. [Last accessed on 2013 Jul 10].  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Sachan A, Gupta R, Das V, Agarwal A, Awasthi PK, Bhatia V. High prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women and their newborns in northern India. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:1060-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Catharine Ross, Christine L. Taylor, Ann L. Yaktine, and Heather B. Del Valle. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium. US: National Academies Press; 2011. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56061/. [Last accessed on 2013 Sep 29].  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Vitamin D supplementation: Recommendations for Canadian mothers and infants. Paediatr Child Health 2007;12:583-98.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.McCarty CA. Sunlight exposure assessment: Can we accurately assess vitamin D exposure from sunlight questionnaires? Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:1097S-101.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Holick MF, Binkley NC, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Gordon CM, Hanley DA, Heaney RP, et al. Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: An Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2011;96:1911-30.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Javaid MK, Crozier SR, Harvey NC, Gale CR, Dennison EM, Boucher BJ, et al. Maternal vitamin D status during pregnancy and childhood bone mass at age 9 years: A longitudinal study. Lancet 2006;367:36-43.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Asemi Z, Samimi M, Tabassi Z, Shakeri H, Esmaillzadeh A. Vitamin D supplementation affects serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, insulin resistance, and biomarkers of oxidative stress in pregnant women. J Nutr 2013;143:1432-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Bener A, Al-Hamaq AO, Saleh NM. Association between vitamin D insufficiency and adverse pregnancy outcome: Global comparisons. Int J Womens Health 2013;5:523-31.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Hollis BW, Wagner CL. Assessment of dietary vitamin D requirements during pregnancy and lactation. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;79:717-26.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Mahon P, Harvey N, Crozier S, Inskip H, Robinson S, Arden N, et al. Low maternal vitamin D status and fetal bone development: Cohort study. J Bone Miner Res 2010;25:14-9.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Brooke OG, Brown IR, Bone CD, Carter ND, Cleeve HJ, Maxwell JD, et al. Vitamin D supplements in pregnant Asian women: Effects on calcium status and fetal growth. Br Med J 1980;280:751-4.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Gezmish O, Black MJ. Vitamin D deficiency in early life and the potential programming of cardiovascular disease in adulthood. J Cardiovasc Transl Res 2013;6:588-603.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Walker VP, Zhang X, Rastegar I, Liu PT, Hollis BW, Adams JS, et al. Cord blood vitamin D status impacts innate immune responses. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2011;96:1835-43.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Hamilton SA, McNeil R, Hollis BW, Davis DJ, Winkler J, Cook C, et al. Profound Vitamin D Deficiency in a Diverse Group of Women during Pregnancy Living in a Sun-Rich Environment at Latitude 32°N. Int J Endocrinol 2010;2010:917428.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Vieth R, Chan PC, MacFarlane GD. Efficacy and safety of vitamin D3 intake exceeding the lowest observed adverse effect level. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;73:288-94.  Back to cited text no. 19
20.Available from: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/recommendations.htm. [Last accessed on 2013 Jul 11].  Back to cited text no. 20
21.Wu F, Staykova T, Horne A, Clearwater J, Ames R, Mason B, et al. Efficacy of an oral, 10-day course of high-dose calciferol in correcting vitamin D deficiency. N Z Med J 2003;116:U536.  Back to cited text no. 21
22.Hollis BW, Wagner CL. Vitamin D requirements during lactation: High-dose maternal supplementation as therapy to prevent hypovitaminosis D for both the mother and the nursing infant. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1752S-8.  Back to cited text no. 22


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article
Risk Factors for...
Areas of Uncertainty

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded276    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal