In recent months, Public health England has recommended that people consider adding vitamin D supplements to their daily diet during the spring and summer. Pregnant or breastfeeding women keen to follow this advice may be considering whether D is a vitamin they can take safely and how it might impact them and their baby.
Vitamin D can assist with regulating the amounts of phosphate and calcium in our bodies. These two vital nutrients are required to ensure our muscles, teeth, and bones always stay in a healthy condition. We can obtain vitamin D in different ways. When we’re outdoors, and our skin is in direct contact with the sun’s Ultraviolet (UV) rays, it naturally produces vitamin D3.
Additionally, vitamin D2 and D3 can be found in different types of food that we eat. However, it’s the way our bodies produce vitamin D in sunlight that has prompted Public Health England to advise supplements. With the population warned to remain within their homes more during the pandemic, the health agency has expressed concerns that people will be missing out on their usual quota of vitamin D gained from the sun’s rays.
Recommended vitamin D during pregnancy
Due to the lack of sunlight over the winter months, UK citizens are typically advised to consider supplements of vitamin D. However, adding it to our diet over spring and summer is a new recommendation for most people of adult age. Pregnant women, however, are among the exceptions to the rule. Medical professionals regularly advise that during pregnancy, a regimen of vitamin D supplements is adhered to.
This is because it can help the baby’s teeth, heart, kidneys, nervous system, and bones develop. All pregnant women are advised to take the prescribed ten micrograms of vitamin D every day as a supplement to ensure their growing baby will have a sufficient amount of the vitamin for the first months of its life. Furthermore, mothers who are breastfeeding are also recommended to take supplements of vitamin D every day.
The amount of vitamin D taken should never exceed 100 micrograms in a day, regardless of whether you are pregnant, as too much of the vitamin in your system can be potentially harmful. Their GP and midwives will guide most pregnant women to take daily vitamin D supplements in combination with a balanced and healthy diet. It’s worth noting that people whose skin is darker or who tend to cover up their skin when outdoors can be a high-risk group experiencing an insufficiency of vitamin D. Public Health England recommends that even if not pregnant, you should consider a daily supplement of vitamin D supplement all year round.
How can you increase the amounts of vitamin D in your body when pregnant?
As we touched on briefly, both vitamin D2 and D3 can be found naturally within a wide selection of different foods, and our bodies can also make vitamin D when they come into contact with sunlight. Fortunately, with spring here and summer just around the corner, sunshine shouldn’t be in too short a supply. To take some vitamin D from the sun while pregnant, spend around 15 minutes in direct sunlight around two or three times per week.
To produce the vitamin D your body requires, you’ll simply need to expose the skin on your face and arms to the sun’s UV rays. While your body won’t receive an overdose of vitamin D from being exposed to sunlight, you can still damage your skin, so ensuring you stay protected is important. If you are going to spend considerable time outside and under the sun, always remember to put on appropriate sunscreen beforehand.
What typed of food naturally have vitamin D?
While vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) can be found in certain plant foods like mushrooms, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is only found in food products of animal origin. These include oily fatty fish like sardines, herring, tuna, and salmon, along with eggs yolks. Additionally, you’ll also find that many foods are available that have been fortified with amounts of vitamin D, such as yoghurts, milk, spreads, cereals, oatmeal, and even orange juice.
It’s worth remembering that some food has high levels of vitamin D, but it is not safe to eat while pregnant. An example of this is the liver; while an excellent source of vitamin D, it is also rich in retinol, a type of vitamin A. If too much of this vitamin build up in the body, it can potentially cause harm to an unborn baby. It can be exceptionally difficult to obtain the right amount of vitamin D through your intake of food alone. For this reason, whether you are pregnant or are now breastfeeding, the best approach is to maintain a balanced and healthy diet and take vitamin D as a supplementary. You can also enjoy a little sunshine outdoors when it is safe for you to do so.