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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Pregnancy complications: Can vitamin D help?

Pregnancy is a high-risk condition. Some of the more common complications of pregnancy include preeclampsia, small for gestational age (SGA), gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), and preterm birth. Preeclampsia involves hypertension, protein in the urine, and swelling. If a woman with preeclampsia has a seizure then it becomes eclampsia.  SGA are babies that are smaller than they are supposed to be based on the length of the pregnancy. GDM is diabetes that appears during pregnancy and usually resolves after birth. Preterm birth is when the baby comes before his or her due date.

Many observational studies have looked at vitamin D levels during pregnancy and whether levels are associated with these complications. To date, many studies have found an increased risk of these complications with lower levels of vitamin D.

Recently, Dr Shu-Qin Wei and colleagues of the University of Montreal reviewed all the literature on the topic and performed a meta-analysis of these observational studies, to see what all the studies combined found.

Wei SQ, Qi HP, Luo ZC, Fraser WD. Maternal Vitamin D Status and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2013 Jan 13.

The authors screened 2,406 papers to find 24 rigorous studies and combined the results into one meta-analysis. They found that pregnant women with 25(OH)D levels lower than 20 ng/ml had:

  • an increased risk of preeclampsia (OR 2.09 of >2200 women in 8 studies),
  • an increased risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (OR 1.38 of > 5,600 women in 12 studies)
  • an increased risk of preterm birth ([OR 1.58 of > 1,200 women in 5 studies)
  • an increased risk of small-for-gestational age (OR 1.52 of > 6,000 women in 6 studies)

The damage done to mother and baby via vitamin D deficiency is widespread and involves widely different mechanisms of action. There is evidence that vitamin D affects placental function, glucose control, infection and inflammatory response. The increased inflammatory of maternal vitamin D deficiency includes increased production of proinflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-6, and interferon gamma. Maternal vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion.

If you are pregnant, or know someone who is pregnant, start taking at least 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D. The evidence for this recommendation does not just stem from just these observational studies but rather also from a few randomized controlled trials that have shown vitamin D supplementation at 4,000 to 5,000 IU/day during pregnancy is safe and healthy.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

2 Responses to Pregnancy complications: Can vitamin D help?

  1. Sondra Rose says:

    Dear Dr. Cannell~

    I would dearly love to share this particular article with my pregnant clients, but you lost me on the first sentence: “Pregnancy is a high-risk condition.”

    Pregnancy is a NORMAL human condition. A healthy, well-nourished pregnancy is anything but high risk. This includes optimal D3 levels, of course.

    There is no need to pathologize pregnancy in order to make a point.

    I have shared many other D Council articles with my pregnant clients and hope that you will edit this article so I can share this one, too!

    Thank you for all that you do!

  2. There have been 5 meta-analysis of Pregnancy and Vitamin D Deficiency – all with similar results.
    Wonder just how many more clinical trials and meta-analysis will be needed to change the attitudes of doctors. Details at http://www.vitamindwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page_id=3941