Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vitamin D in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Heavenly Sunshine by mommamia.
Heavenly Sunshine by mammamia

"And have we not built over you the seven firmaments, and placed therein a Light of Splendour?"
(Qur'an 78:12-13)

Besides the warmth, light, and joy that the sun provides, researchers are now discovering even more benefits to sunshine. Vitamin D. Once thought of as a vitamin in the traditional sense, is now beginning to be thought of as much more than that. It is believed that Vitamin D is actually a group of fat soluble prohormones, really pre-cursors to hormones. These hormones are influential in many of the body's functions, building bones, regulating mood, quelling inflammation and more. Recently, Vitamin D has been touted as a prevention and possible cure, to everything from schizophrenia to the swine flu. Vitamin D can be consumed in our diet, and obtained from the sun. In the past it was believed that we only needed a little for bone health and to prevent rickets, but now it is being looked at in a new light, so to speak.

Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy has some surprising results. Dr. Anne Merewood discovered that women with low Vitamin D levels were four times as likely to have a cesarean section. Pre-eclampsia, a metabolic disorder of pregnancy characterized by protein in the urine and high blood pressure, is also affected by Vitamin D levels. It can lead to problems in utero for the fetus and life threatening seizures in the mother. Dr Lisa Boden found that in women with low levels of Vitamin D, their risk for developing this disorder was five times higher than women with normal levels of Vitamin D. Gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes specific to pregnancy, can also be prevented by adequate amounts of Vitamin D. One researcher found that inadequate amounts of Vitamin D in early pregnancy resulted in three times the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

And if that's not enough to have you running for the sun, there's more. Women who are low in Vitamin D deliver babies who are as low or lower in their own stores of Vitamin D. This can have a wide and dizzying range of effects on the baby. It can cause or contribute to low birth weight, an increased incidence of asthma, small for gestation age babies, weak bones, autoimmune disease and may even contribute to schizophrenia. Unfortunately, Vitamin D is not transferred through breast milk very well. The American Academy of Pediatrics and others now recommend supplementing exclusively breastfed infants with 400 IU of Vitamin D per day. Generally, however, babies exposed to a little sun each day should have sufficient Vitamin D levels. If a woman's intake during pregnancy was less than ideal, she should consider supplementing both for herself and her baby while exclusively breastfeeding.

Muslim women who cover and women of dark skin are at more at risk of deficient Vitamin D levels. They require longer periods of sunlight exposure and often due to either modern lifestyles, which limit outdoor time, or to cultural considerations, or both, they are not likely to get it. Researchers in Australia found that 80% of veiled or dark skinned women had clinically low levels of Vitamin D. It is difficult to say how much sun exposure is adequate to raise Vitamin D levels as there are many factors, cloud cover, smog, season, that affect how much actually gets absorbed into our skin. Under ideal conditions it has been recommended that just 5-30 minutes of sun exposure on back, face, hands, legs during 10a.m. - 3 p.m. twice a week would be sufficient.

Here are my recommendations for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers supplement with 1000-2000 IU of Vitamin D.
  • I recommend Biotics Research Bio-D-Mulsion.
  • Eat salmon, other oily fish, eggs, fortified milk, mushrooms
  • Sun exposure for babies of 20 min per day, this is with clothes on. With just a diaper, five minutes per day is enough.
  • You could supplement breastfed babies as the AAP recommends with the same supplement mentioned above, but in the 400 IU dosage
  • Cod liver oil contains an immense amount of Vitamin D, one teaspoon a day per 50 pounds of body weight is the recommendation. So, for an infant that weighs 20 pounds that is half a teaspoon. This is a great supplement for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Daily sunlight exposure for adults.
  • Supplementation should be looked at in balance with the day's total sun exposure. On sunny days where you and your family were outside for awhile , or you ate salmon for dinner, think of skipping the supplement, or diminishing the dosage.

Visit these links to learn more about Vitamin D and Muslim women, or Vitamin D in general. Vitamin D levels can be tested. The above links will give you information on this and much more.

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