Fall is a wonderful time of year ~ changing leaves, football, and pumpkin flavored treats, but cooler temperatures mean less time outdoors, and thus, less sun exposure. Since exposure to the sun triggers Vitamin D production in our bodies, it is this time of year when paying attention to your Vitamin D intake becomes vital.
So why is Vitamin D so important? It plays a crucial role in the successful absorption of calcium into your blood and bones for both you and your baby. This not only helps keep your bones strong, but also promotes a regular heartbeat and healthy muscle movement. Low Vitamin D levels during pregnancy can result in sub-optimal growth for your baby and has been linked to several pregnancy complications for you and your baby, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 Diabetes.
Unfortunately, Vitamin D deficiency is very common and can still occur when taking a prenatal vitamin. The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for Vitamin D is 600 IUs a day; however, ongoing research suggests that higher levels may be beneficial, particularly during pregnancy. Some physicians recommend upwards of 1,000-6,000 IUs of Vitamin D per day for pregnant and nursing women. The effects and safety of these higher doses are still being reviewed; therefore, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before supplementing your prenatal vitamin. It is also a good idea to ask your healthcare provider to test your serum Vitamin D levels during one of your routine blood draws.
So, what can you do when daylight is limited? Here are a few tips to getting enough Vitamin D:
- FOOD: Take extra care to eat those foods naturally high in Vitamin D (see below).
- SUN: Get sun exposure when possible (without sunscreen for a short period of time). The torso makes the most Vitamin D so if you are looking for a good excuse to take a vacation pre-baby (a “babymoon” if you will), here’s your ticket!
- SUPPLEMENTS: Talk with your healthcare provider about a Vitamin D supplement. It is also extremely important to continue supplementing while breastfeeding – for both you AND your baby. Exclusively breast-fed babies often require their own Vitamin D supplement. Talk with your pediatrician for guidance. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-d-for-babies/AN02157)
|Food||Vitamin D (IU)|
|Salmon, 3.5 ounces, cooked*||360|
|Tuna, 3 ounces*||200|
|Milk, all types, 8 ounces||100|
|Orange Juice, fortified, 8 ounces||100|
|Yogurt, fortified, 6-8 ounces||80-100|
|Cereal, fortified, ¾ - 1 cup||40-60|
|Egg, 1 large, whole||20|
|Mushrooms, ½ cup, cooked||11|
*When selecting fish, remember to opt for wild caught (over farm raised) to ensure that you are not consuming unnecessary chemicals.
Reference: Expect the Best, American Dietetic Association/Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D.; Webinar: Hot Topics in Prenatal Nutrition, Bridget Swinney, MS, RD; World Health Organization, Mayo Clinic.