Should I be taking vitamin D3 while pregnant?

Vitamin D is activated when our skin is exposed to sunlight. But many of us, including pregnant women, can be deficient in this vitamin without realising.

Many people living in the United States and Canada don’t get enough sun to meet their vitamin D requirements. And even people living in sunnier climates are missing out because of the use of sunscreens, or by staying indoors. 

That’s why vitamin D supplements are important – especially if you’re pregnant. But, is it safe to take vitamin D3 supplements when you’re pregnant? And exactly how much do you need?

The important benefits of vitamin D during pregnancy

An expectant mother should take the recommended daily amount of vitamin D for the healthy development of the baby. The benefits of vitamin D3 can’t be discounted.

There are different types of vitamin D, but the most significant compounds needed for human development are vitamin D2 and D3. Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol is the most absorbable form of vitamin D, and supplements usually come in soft gels which are easy to swallow.  

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone metabolism because it regulates calcium and phosphate, the essential nutrients for proper bone development.

Natural sources of vitamin D are sunlight exposure, eggs, oily fish, and fortified food products. 

Vitamin D deficiency is common among pregnant women

According to WHO, vitamin D deficiency is common among pregnant women. It’s been associated with increased risks of pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, and gestational diabetes mellitus. 

Here are the important benefits of vitamin D and WHO recommendations during pregnancy:

  • Vitamin D supplementation improves maternal vitamin D status.
  • It reduces the risk of low birth weight, pre-eclampsia, and preterm birth. 
  • Vitamin D supports bone health, healthy cell division, and immune function.
  • Vitamin D supports the healthy bone development of your baby. 
  • Pregnant women are encouraged to consume a healthy balanced diet to receive adequate nutrition.

Taking vitamin D3 supplements when you’re pregnant

About 40-60% of the US population is deficient in vitamin D, including pregnant women.

One of the major causes of vitamin D deficiency is the restrictively short list of foods containing vitamin D, which include salmon, cod liver oil, and egg yolk. Fortified milk products aren’t a reliable source. That’s why taking vitamin D is important, especially among expectant mothers. 

Here are some suggestions to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D:

  • Ensure you have exposure to sunlight for around 5-10 minutes, two or three times a week. Make sure you expose your face, arms, legs, and hands. Don’t wear sunscreen because it will hinder the activation of vitamin D on your skin.
  • If you live in a region where there isn’t enough sunlight, the best way to meet your daily vitamin D requirement is to take supplements. Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol is usually derived from lanolin from sheep or fish liver oil.

Safe vitamin D dosage levels 

The factors that influence your body’s ability to produce and absorb vitamin D include your age, the place where you live, skin pigmentation, the season, and how much time you spend outdoors. The status of your gastrointestinal system also plays an essential key in vitamin D absorption through dietary sources. 

To ensure safe and optimal blood levels of vitamin D, you need a recommended daily intake of 25 to 100 micrograms or  1000–4000 IU. Researchers recommend 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily for pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, make sure you don’t go beyond the limit without consulting your obstetrician.

Here are the findings of a study on Vitamin D supplementation as reported by the American Pregnancy Association

  • In a recent study, it showed that women who take vitamin D daily gain the greatest benefits in preventing infection and preterm labor. That’s why taking vitamin D3 is highly recommended for pregnant women.
  • The study confirmed that vitamin D supplementation at this level is safe for you and your baby.

Pregnant women need additional supplementation because prenatal vitamins only contain 400 IU of vitamin D. You’ll find vitamin D3 supplements with higher doses than prenatal vitamins, so you and your baby achieve the optimum levels of vitamin D for a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. 

Make sure you get enough vitamin D if you’re pregnant 

Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol is easily absorbed and used by the body, which is highly recommended for pregnant women. The safe daily maximum dose is 4,000 IU.

Vitamin D3 supplementation helps prevent preterm labor, premature birth, pre-eclampsia, diabetes mellitus, and other complications of pregnancy. Also, your baby can benefit by developing stronger bones for a healthy musculoskeletal system.  

Photo by Eva Dang