pregnant in hospital bed

Lisa Bodnar, PhD, of the Magee-Womens Research Institute, talks about the potential benefits of vitamin D and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy.

More and more women are aware of the benefits of prenatal vitamins. They often look to bolster their intake of folic acid and iron to help have a healthy pregnancy.

But, many expectant mothers may be overlooking the pros of vitamin D supplements.

Dr. Bodnar says growing numbers of studies show pregnant women with low vitamin D levels are more likely to have a:

  • Preterm birth.
  • Sudden rise in blood pressure (preeclampsia).
  • Small baby that might not be able to go home right away.

Research and studies to see if vitamin D can prevent these problems are still in their very early stages.

“There haven’t been any large trials to test whether vitamin D supplements prevent these poor pregnancy outcomes,” Dr. Bodnar says.

“We need vitamin D for many other processes in the body and we suspect it plays a role in pregnancy. But, until some large trials have been done, we can’t say anything else with terrible certainty,” she says.

What We Do Know About Vitamin D for Moms-to-Be

While research hasn’t yet confirmed the benefits of excess vitamin D, we do know the value of having sufficient levels during pregnancy.

“Being sufficient in vitamin D is known to promote healthy skeletal development in the fetus. It also ensures healthy bones for the mom,” Dr. Bodnar says.

Pregnant women should take in the recommended 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day.

We receive most of our vitamin D from sunlight. Where you live can play a big role in how much vitamin D your body gets.

According to Dr. Bodnar:

“In northern cities like Pittsburgh — from about November to March — our bodies can’t make enough vitamin D from the sun. This is when the oral intake of vitamin D through supplements and diet becomes so vital.”

Tips to Increase Vitamin D During Pregnancy

Some tips for increasing vitamin D without sunlight include taking prenatal vitamins for pregnancy.

You can also focus your diet more on foods rich in vitamin D, including:

  • Fortified dairy products and cereal
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Fatty fish such as salmon

For more on how to have a healthy pregnancy, visit the Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC website or call 1-866-MyMagee (696-2433).