Vitamin D

Essential for healthy bones
Vitamin D is best known for its role in bone health. Vitamin D is important for both mother and baby and blood levels need to be adequate during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

It is vital that mothers and mother-to-be have normal vitamin D levels. This ensures that when their baby is in the womb it develops normally and that the newborn baby continues to get adequate vitamin D from breast milk.

If a mother has low level of vitamin D, it is possible for the baby to be born with, or develop, rickets (also called soft bones). This is because there is a lack of calcium and phosphorus absorbed from the gut.  Without enough vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus will be in short supply for building strong bones.  See http://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Rickets/ for further information about rickets.

Rickets is uncommon and is the display of severe vitamin D deficiency.  Low levels of vitamin D have also been associated with increased risks of many other conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, allergies and the body’s ability to fight infections.  Because vitamin D has many roles in maintaining good health, it is best to keep vitamin D levels in the normal range.

People usually get most of their vitamin D from exposing their skin to sunshine. A small number of foods contain vitamin D including fatty fish like salmon, cheese, egg yolks, and liver. Some foods like margarine have vitamin D added to them, and in some countries (but not in Australia) dairy products are also fortified with vitamin D.

  • Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency (low vitamin D levels)?

    -People who do not expose their skin to sunlight

    -People with dark skin

    -People who are obese

    -People with medical conditions that affect how the body controls vitamin levels (for example, liver or kidney problems) or who take medications that interfere with vitamin D metabolism (like anticonvulsants)

    -Exclusively breastfed infants who are always shielded from sunlight or with mothers with at least one of the above risk factors

    -Testing for vitamin D status is advised for people who are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

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  • What to do to maintain good vitamin D levels?

    -Expose your skin to sunlight in a sun-safe way.  For more information Click Here

    -Eat some vitamin D containing foods like fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese or foods supplemented with vitamin D.

    -Extra care needs to be taken to for breastfed babies because breastmilk does not contain much vitamin D and babies generally should not be exposed to direct sunlight.  The best way to protect breastfed infants from low vitamin D levels is to ensure that the mother has good vitamin D levels during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

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