Although vitamin D deficiency is common among moms-to-be in the US, doctors from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) still say there is not enough evidence to support vitamin D screening as a standard part of prenatal care for all pregnant women. Instead, the group recommends that pregnant women help ensure they're getting enough of the "sunshine vitamin" by taking prenatal vitamins, getting sensible sun exposure, and eating foods that are good sources of vitamin D.
Why not test? "The problem is that there is no [agreement] on what the optimal level of vitamin D should be during pregnancy, nor is it known what the upper limit is in terms of the safety [for vitamin D supplements]," says Dr. George A. Macones, chair of ACOG's committee on obstetric practice. Right now, only those pregnant women thought to be at risk for severe vitamin D deficiency are tested. Even then, how much vitamin D is safe for these women to take is still in question.
Are you at risk for vitamin D deficiency? "Recent data suggests that vitamin D deficiency is common among pregnant women, particularly … vegetarians, those who have limited exposure to the sun, and women with darker skin tones," says Dr. Macones. Talk to your doctor about whether testing is right for you. If your vitamin D levels are low, most experts agree that taking 1,000 to 2,000 international units (IU) per day of vitamin D is safe during pregnancy. Your doctor can prescribe the amount that is right for you.
And why all the fuss over the vitamin? As ACOG explains in its report, vitamin D is an important nutrient that allows the body to absorb the calcium necessary for normal bone development. The majority of vitamin D is produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight. People can also obtain vitamin D through fortified milk and juice, fish oils, and dietary supplements. Severe vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been linked with abnormal skeletal development and rickets in newborns.