Vitamin D Could Spell A Happier Birth

Vitamin D Could Spell A Happier Birth

A new study has found that vitamin D  could play a role in preventing  early-onset severe preeclampsia in pregnant women. Preeclampsia is a syndrome marked by a sudden increase in blood pressure and a buildup of protein in the urine due to stress on the kidneys. Early-onset severe preeclampsia is a particularly serious form that arises before the 34th week of pregnancy.

In the study, researchers found that the 50 women with early-onset severe preeclampsia had much lower levels of vitamin D compared with those of 100 healthy pregnant women. The healthy group averaged 32 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D while the early-onset severe preeclampsia group averaged 18 ng/mL.

Of the preeclampsia group, 54 percent were deemed to have vitamin D deficiency (less than 20 ng/mL), versus 27 percent of the healthy group. Only 24 percent of women with preeclampsia had vitamin D levels greater than 32 ng/mL, compared with 47 percent of their healthy counterparts.

These findings don’t necessarily prove that lower vitamin D levels contribute to early-onset preeclampsia. However, they do add to the piles of research that are finding links between vitamin D levels in the blood and various health problems. For example, low levels of vitamin D have also been connected with type 1 diabetes , heart disease, certain cancers and depression.

Vitamin D acts as a hormone, and lab research has found that it may affect the regulation and function of proteins in the placenta; problems in the development of the placenta are believed to be at the roots of preeclampsia.

There have been past studies that found some association between vitamin D and preeclampsia. Dr. Christian J. Robinson, of the Medical University of Southern Carolina in Charleston, says that now more work is needed to see whether pregnant women’s vitamin D levels predict the odds of preeclampsia developing  and whether raising those levels with vitamin D supplements lowers women’s risk of the complication

To further support vitamin D’s effect in preeclampsia risk, African American women are at a greater risk of complication than other racial groups, even when factors like healthcare and economic status are considered. Vitamin D is naturally synthesized through the skin when it is exposed to light. This process of absorbing vitamin D from the sun is less efficient in people with darker skin. Studies have found that African Americans commonly have deficient levels of vitamin D in their blood.

As of today, U.S. guidelines say adults who are 50 and younger should get 200 IU of vitamin D each day, while older adults should get 400 – 600 IU. The toxicity level of vitamin D is set at 2,000 IUs. However, the guidelines by which researchers have set regarding what is enough, and what is too much vitamin D, is currently under review. Robinson said that the 400 IU in prenatal vitamins remains the recommended daily intake for pregnant women.

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