Recommendations for vitamin intake during pregnancy are constantly being modified to reflect new research. Most people are aware of the importance of taking in enough folic acid and other B vitamins during their child-bearing years. A new study on taking vitamin D during pregnancy suggests that this vitamin also may be crucial to developing children, especially in the areas of social development and motor skills.
The Effects of Vitamin D During Pregnancy
It is well known that it is important to get a wide range of vitamins as part of your prenatal care while pregnant or planning a pregnancy. However, not all vitamins are created equal. Some vitamins, such as folic acid, are more important during pregnancy because we know that a deficiency can cause very serious and specific problems.
Vitamin D is perhaps best known for its effects on mood and on bone growth. Unsurprisingly, it has been linked to fetal bone growth as well. Pregnant women are routinely told to get enough of this vitamin to ensure that their fetus can develop healthy bones. Vitamin D also helps to keep an expecting mother’s bones strong at a time when their body is facing a range of new demands. However, this may not be the only role of this nutrient in growth and development. New research on vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy suggests that a deficiency of this vitamin may have very serious effects on the developing fetus in the areas of social and motor development, effects that can last a lifetime.
Vitamin D and Social Development
Researchers looked at a group of pregnant women who had low vitamin D levels as well as those who had normal amounts of this vitamin while expecting. They assessed the health of the children resulting from these pregnancies and found surprising results. Children who were born to mothers who had a vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy scored lower on both social and motor skills. They scored lower on motor skills such as kicking a ball and jumping. In addition, these children had more trouble with social skills in their preschool years.
How can vitamin D affect such a diverse range of skills in a developing fetus? While researchers are not sure of the exact mechanism, it definitely appears that this nutrient has a more profound effect on fetal development than was previously known. Although the effects of low vitamin D are acknowledged by the medical field, American doctors do not currently recommend routine screening of pregnant women for a deficiency of this vitamin. As a result, many expecting mothers may be deficient without knowing it. At a time when many mothers are worried about their children developing autism and other increasingly common neurological disorders, taking a vitamin D supplement may be an easy way to give children a better chance at a healthy life.
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
Although vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients for human health, many modern people are deficient. This vitamin is produced mainly through a reaction found in skin cells when they are exposed to ultraviolet light. Many people in the modern world wear sunscreen to lower their skin cancer risk, leaving them with low vitamin D levels. However, there are several ways to ensure that you get the vitamin D you need without increasing your risk of skin cancer.
• Spend a few minutes a day in direct sunlight without sunscreen. This is not enough to get a sunburn or increase cancer risk but will ensure that your cells are able to manufacture vitamin D.
• Eat foods that are rich in this vitamin. These include eggs, meat, leafy greens and also cereals. Cereals in Western countries are fortified with vitamins A and D, so they are a rich source of this nutrient.
• Take a vitamin D supplement to ensure that you get enough of this vitamin even if you lack sun exposure or a diet rich in animal foods.
• Consider getting a special lamp that emits ultraviolet rays, such as the ones used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD). These have the wavelength of light needed to encourage your skin to produce vitamin D.
Not Just for Pregnant Women
Even if you are not pregnant, your body needs vitamin D to survive and to thrive. Vitamin D has a variety of effects that are beneficial to all people. It is important in producing the biochemicals that contribute to maintaining a happy and positive mood, which is why a deficiency has been shown to cause depression and seasonal affective disorder. It also is important to the growth and remodeling of your bones. Vitamin D serves as a cofactor in a variety of important metabolic reactions. People who are deficient in this vitamin often find that they suffer fatigue, malaise and sleep disorders. Last, this vitamin is important to the immune system. Without it, you may find that you become sick more easily and take longer to recover from even minor and routine illness.
Eating a well-balanced diet is crucial to human health. However, the food supply is more depleted in nutrients than ever before. More and more people are finding that they have better health when taking a multivitamin with a wide range of essential vitamins and nutrients. Good nutrition is the building block of good health, so getting your vitamins either from a balanced diet or a supplement is more important than ever.