Vitamin D in pregnancy

Everybody needs vitamin D – it helps us to absorb the right amount of calcium and phosphate. It is especially important in pregnancy as it helps your baby’s bones, teeth, kidneys, heart and nervous system to develop.

Vitamin D is found naturally in some foods and we also get vitamin D from sunlight. Most of us don’t get enough vitamin D from our diet and we rely on the summer sunlight on our skin to make enough vitamin D for the winter months.

The amount of time you need to spend in the sun to make enough vitamin D is different for everyone and depends on your skin type, the time of day and the time of year. You don't need to sunbathe, though.

 Just 15 minutes a day in the sun, two or three times a week, should be enough in sunny weather, and you only need to expose your arms and face.

How much vitamin D should I take in pregnancy?

  • All pregnant women should take a 10 microgram supplement of vitamin D each day to give your baby enough vitamin D for the first few months of life.
  • Breastfeeding mums should take a vitamin D supplement as well.

Without it, there is a risk that your child will have soft bones, which can lead to rickets (a disease that affects bone development in children).

If you are eligible for Healthy Start vitamins, vitamin D is included. You can also buy Healthy Start vitamins at some GP clinics and vitamin D supplements 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 an even higher risk of vitamin D deficiency if you:

  • always cover your skin
  • use high-factor sun block
  • have dark skin
  • have a BMI above 30. 

What foods have vitamin D? 

Foods containing vitamin D include:

  • eggs
  •  oily fish (salmon and sardines, for example)
  •  It's sometimes added to margarine and breakfast cereals, too.

Find out which other supplements to take in pregnancy. 

More on important supplements in pregnancy

Sources

  1. Hollis BW et al. (2011). “Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy: Double-blind, randomized clinical trial of safety and effectiveness.” JBMR 2011;26:2341-2357
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2008) ‘Antenatal Care’, NICE Clinical Guidelines 62: http://publications.nice.org.uk/antenatal-care-cg62 [accessed 18 January 2015].
  3. Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ Midwifery, 14th edition, London, Ballière Tindall.
  4.  National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2008) ‘Antenatal Care’, NICE Clinical Guidelines 62: http://publications.nice.org.uk/antenatal-care-cg62 [accessed 18 January 2015].
  5. NHS Choices, Supplements in pregnancy, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/vitamins-minerals-supplements-pregnant.aspx [accessed 12/11/2014]
  6. Bestwick JP et al. (2014). “Prevention of neural tube defects: a cross sectional uptake of folic acid supplementation in nearly half a million women.” Plos One 2014; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089354
  7. British Dietetic Association (2013) ‘Food Fact Sheet: Vitamin D’, London, BDA: http://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/VitaminD [accessed 18 January 2015] 
  8. Weissmann-Brenner A, et al. (2014). “Maternal medical compromise during pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes.” The Journal of Maternal-Fetal and neonatal medicine 2014;doi: 10.3109/14767058.2014.947949
  9. Hoppe M, et al. (2013). “Heme iron-based dietary intervention for improvement of iron status in young women.” Nutrition 2013;29:89-95
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