As we push through the last months of winter, there’s one nutrient in particular that you should be mindful of: vitamin D.
Vitamin D is known as “the sunshine vitamin” because it’s not found in many of our foods and our body actually synthesizes most of our vitamin D from sun exposure. With shorter days and less sunlight, vitamin D is something that many people aren’t getting enough of– yet it plays such an important role in prenatal health!
Here’s everything you need to know about vitamin D and pregnancy.
Vitamin D has many crucial roles in our body.
It helps your body absorb and use calcium from food, which in turn helps to maintain bone health during pregnancy. Research shows that adequate vitamin D intake in pregnancy also helps to control blood pressure, maintain blood sugar control and support a healthy immune system.
These things are not just vital for you but also for your growing little bundle!
In recent years, more and more research has examined the impact that vitamin D deficiency has on prenatal health. Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to prenatal complications, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, low birth weight and higher occurrence rates of autoimmune conditions in infants 1 . With these possible complications related to vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting enough of the sunshine vitamin.
So if vitamin D comes mostly from sun exposure, is this how we should be increasing our vitamin D levels?
Not quite. Getting fresh air and sunlight is always great for our health, especially when the darker days of winter can impact your mood and mental health. You should definitely include fresh air and sunlight as part of your regular routine even through winter months– however, there are barriers to relying on sunlight for vitamin D.
For example, getting sun exposure with sunscreen on or with clothing prevents UV rays from reaching your skin and will prevent vitamin D synthesis.
Here are 2 ways that you can increase your vitamin D intake to support your prenatal health:
Take a vitamin D supplement
It is challenging to meet your vitamin D requirements through diet alone, so it’s a great idea to take a vitamin D supplement to help prevent deficiency– especially during winter months.
The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should take a supplement of 2000IU per day. Since everyone’s needs vary, however, the exact amount you need depends on your individual health and vitamin D levels in your bloodwork (this is a test that would have to be requested).
Vitamin D is a supplement that is best taken alongside foods to help absorption.
Increase your vitamin D-rich foods
Although our main source of vitamin D is from sunlight, there are a few foods that do give us vitamin D. Increasing these foods in your diet can help to increase your vitamin D intake.
Definitely aim to consume these foods in your weekly routine. Food sources of vitamin D include:
Fish or seafood such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, light tuna and shrimp
Milk or milk alternatives that have been fortified with vitamin D
Yogurt made with milk or milk alternatives fortified with vitamin D
Do you have questions about your vitamin D levels? Send us a message to learn how we can support you in meeting all of your prenatal nutrition needs!