Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and can only be absorbed with fat. Vitamin D plays important roles throughout the body during pregnancy and is needed for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus which is needed for healthy development of bones and tissue.
Breastfed infants, individuals with darker skin, and those with limited sun exposures are at risk for vitamin D deficiencies.
Vitamin D is produced by the skin after exposure to sunlight. People with limited sun exposure or who wear skin coverings in the sun are at risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Individuals with darker skin are also at risk for Vitamin D deficiencies because the pigment absorbs the ultraviolet light and does not produce as much Vitamin D.
Individuals that eat a vegetarian or vegan diet are also at risk for Vitamin D deficiencies because many of the food sources of Vitamin D are from meat products.
Vitamin D deficiencies can lead to problems in developing children including rickets and osteoporosis, which is a weakening of the bones.
When children develop rickets and their legs become too weak to hold their weight, the result can be a permanent case of bowed legs.
Vitamin D can be difficult to obtain in the appropriate amount because it is not found in many foods. Often, foods have been fortified with vitamin D such as in breads, cereals, juices and dairy products.
The recommended dose of Vitamin D for pregnant and breast-feeding women is 600 IU every day. Prenatal vitamins may not always contain the recommended daily dose and eating a diet with vitamin D may be essential.
Foods rich in Vitamin D include: fish-liver oils, fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks, liver and fortified foods such as dairy, cereals, and breads.
Bodnar LM, Simhan HN, Powers RW, Frank MP, Cooperstein E, Roberts JM. High prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in black and white pregnant women residing in the northern United States and their neonates. J Nutr. 2007;137:447-452.
Chen TC, Shao A, Heath H III, Holick MF. An update on the vitamin Dcontent of fortified milk from the United States and Canada. N EnglJ Med. 1993;329:1507.
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.