Our body makes vitamin D from sunlight on our skin and it is also found in some foods. We make most of our vitamin D for the year when we are out in summer sunlight. This is usually from late March or early April to the end of September. Our bodies make less vitamin D in the shade or in cloudy weather and we cannot absorb vitamin D through windows.
The amount of time you need to spend in the sun to make enough vitamin D is different for everyone. It depends on your skin type, the time of day and the time of year.
It's not known exactly how much time is needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D to meet the body's needs. If you are in the sun, take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before you start to turn red or burn. You do not need to sunbathe to absorb it and you only need to uncover your arms and face. Always follow guidelines for staying safe in the sun.
How much vitamin D should I take in pregnancy?
All pregnant women should take a 10 microgram (or 400 IU) supplement of vitamin D each day. This will give your baby enough vitamin d for the first few months of life.
This guidance is strongly recommended through autumn and winter and advised in spring and summer. Do not take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful. Breastfeeding mums should take a vitamin D supplement as well.
If you do not take a vitamin d supplement through pregnancy, there is a risk that your child will have soft bones. This can lead to rickets (a disease that affects bone development in children).
If you are eligible for Healthy Start vitamins, vitamin D is included in these. You can also buy Healthy Start vitamins at some children’s centres and pharmacies. Other vitamin D supplements are available cheaply at a pharmacy or supermarket.
Will I need to take extra vitamin D in pregnancy?
Some women are more likely to need vitamin D than others. You may have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency if you:
- rarely go outside
- always cover your skin
- use high-factor sun block
- have dark skin
- have a BMI above 30.
For anyone within these groups, taking a vitamin D supplement is especially important. But you do not need extra unless you have been diagnosed with a deficiency.
What foods have vitamin D?
It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from foods alone, but there are foods that help your intake.
- oily fish (salmon and sardines, for example)
- red meat
- breakfast cereals, fat spreads and non-dairy milk alternatives, but the amount added to these products can vary and might only be small.
We have more information about how to eat well during pregnancy.