By Margarita Nahapetyan
Pregnant women should take 4,000 IU of vitamin D every day - 10 times more than doctors currently recommend - to decrease their risk of preterm birth and infections, according to a new study that appears to be the first to investigate the safety of high doses of vitamin D during pregnancy.
Current recommendations for daily intake of vitamin D during pregnancy range from 200 IU (international units) a day to 400 IU, the amount that can be found in the majority of prenatal vitamins. For many years, pregnancy specialists were concerned that too much consumption of vitamin D in pregnancy could result in birth defects, and under current guidelines anything that is more than 2,000 IU a day is still believed to be potentially dangerous for any person, not just future moms.
According to the researchers at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, 2,000 IU of vitamin D is not only safe during pregnancy, but making this dosage double may actually decrease the risk of developing undesirable complications. To come up with this conclusion, researchers studied 494 women who were between 12 and 16 weeks into pregnancy, and assigned them into three different groups. The first group of women received 400 IU of vitamin D per day until labor; women in the second group were given 2,000 IU of the vitamin; and, finally, the participants in the third group received 4,000 IU of vitamin D.
All future moms were tested on a monthly basis, including calcium levels in their blood, to ensure that there were not experiencing any negative side effects from any of the prescribed doses. Their levels of vitamin D before the trial were the same. Neither the participants nor the investigators were aware of what dose of vitamin D they were taking during an experiment, which makes it a "blinded," randomized controlled study whose methodology is considered the gold standard of medical science.
The results revealed that the women who were given the highest dose of vitamin D were 50 per cent less likely to experience any problems including premature birth, gestational diabetes, infections and pre-eclampsia (a sudden increase in blood pressure and protein in urine that can be dangerous for both mothers and their babies), when compared to the ladies who were taking the lowest dose of the vitamin.
Future mothers need to take 4,000 IU of vitamin D every day, said one of the authors of the study, Dr. Bruce Hollis, Ph.D., the director of pediatric nutritional sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina. "We did not see a single adverse effect. It was absolutely safe, and we saw a lot of improved outcomes. The risk of preterm labor was vastly decreased and so was the risk of other complications of pregnancy," Dr.Hollis concluded.
The results of the new study were presented last week at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver, British Columbia.