Vitamin D: A Key Nutrient for Healthy Mom and Baby

Vitamin D: A Key Nutrient for Healthy Mom and Baby

As an expecting mother, it's natural to be concerned about the health and wellbeing of your developing baby. And one nutrient that plays a vital role in this is vitamin D. This essential vitamin not only helps maintain strong bones and teeth for your little one, but also supports healthy immune function and can even prevent complications during pregnancy. In this article, we'll delve into the many advantages vitamin D offers during pregnancy and postpartum, and share tips on how to optimize your levels for a happy, healthy pregnancy journey.

The Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a super nutrient that does wonders for you and your little bundle of joy. This happy vitamin plays a vital role in promoting healthy fetal development and keeping your baby healthy after birth.

It can be made in the body when your skin is exposed to sunlight, or it can be obtained through our diet. Once in the body, vitamin D is processed by the liver and then the kidneys, where it's converted into an active form of vitamin that the body can use.

Fetal Development

This essential nutrient is not only good for your overall health, but it also plays a critical role in your baby's healthy growth and development. By taking vitamin D, you can minimize the danger of getting gestational diabetes, which is hazardous for both moms and babies.

Maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin D during pregnancy is essential for proper bone formation in your little one. Strong bones will support your baby's overall health and help prevent long-term health issues. Brain development is also heavily dependent on vitamin D levels during pregnancy. As your little one's brain rapidly grows and develops, and ensuring adequate amounts of vitamin D will only enhance their brain functioning, and allow your little one's mind to grow to its full potential.

Supports Maternal Bone Health

Pregnancy is an amazing experience, but it also requires extra attention to one's health. Vitamin D is especially important for mothers-to-be as it is key to helping maintain strong bones. As we all know, bones provide a strong structure to our bodies and need plenty of calcium to stay strong and healthy.

Vitamin D aids the body in absorbing calcium, and when the demands of pregnancy put an additional strain on your body, having enough Vitamin D helps protect your bones from calcium depletion, which can potentially lead to complications like osteoporosis in the future.

Enhances Mood and Well-Being

As any new mom can attest, pregnancy and postpartum can be a rollercoaster of emotions. Hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and the stresses of caring for a newborn can all take a toll on a mother's mental well-being. Fortunately, research has shown that vitamin D can play a role in improving mood and reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and mood disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

One study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that pregnant women with higher vitamin D levels had a lower risk of depression and anxiety. Another study found that vitamin D deficiency was associated with an increased risk of postpartum depression. These findings suggest that getting enough vitamin D may be key to supporting a mother's mental health during this critical time.

Boosts Immune Functions

As a pregnant woman, you may have noticed that you're more susceptible to infections and illnesses. This is because pregnancy changes your immune system, making you more vulnerable to certain viruses and bacteria. That's why immune support is crucial during pregnancy, and Vitamin D has proven to be a successfulway of boosting this defense. Research from dozens of doctors all across the world was collected by the University of London and found that women who took Vitamin D supplements were at a 50% lesser risk of developing respiratory infections such as the cold and the flu compared to those who did not.

Reduces Risks of Gestational Complication

Not only does Vitamin D protect against the dangers of preterm birth or other complications by preventing infections. Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D during pregnancy has been associated with a lower risk of blood-pressure-related complications. Studies have found that women with low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy have an increased risk of developing preeclampsia, preterm birth, and gestational hypertension.

But how does vitamin D help reduce these risks? Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and supporting blood vessel health. When levels of vitamin D are low, it can lead to an increase in inflammation and high blood pressure, which are both risk factors for gestational hypertension and preeclampsia.

Supports Breastfeeding and Infant Health

Breast milk is the perfect nutrition for babies, supplying all the nutrients they need to get off to a healthy start. If you're breastfeeding, it's particularly important to get the right amount of Vitamin D since it helps the baby's immune system and bone development. Research has shown that supplemental Vitamin D for mothers during breastfeeding boosts the levels of Vitamin D in both mother and baby. Studies have shown that infants who get this vitamin through breast milk have higher levels than those without the supplement

By increasing the levels of Vitamin D in breast milk, moms are better able to reduce the risk of Vitamin D deficiency and any associated health problems such as rickets, bone fractures, and weakened immunity. And the great news is that with adequate Vitamin D, mothers are able to produce even more of the vitamin in their breast milk, giving their little ones even more protection.

How to Get Enough Vitamin D

So how much vitamin D should a pregnant woman aim for? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women get at least 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day.

Exposure to Sun

Spending some time in the warmth of the sun can do wonders for your vitamin D levels. The National Institute of Health suggests being exposed to sunlight for between 10 and 30 minutes, ideally in the morning or early afternoon, twice a week to reap the benefits. Sunscreen is an absolute must, so make sure to slather it on before spending time outdoors and don't forget to reapply every two hours!

About Sunscreen:

Applying a good-quality SPF can help protect your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays. But, with so many different types and SPF options, it can be overwhelming to pick the right one. For starters, look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and choose an SPF of at least 30.

  • Oil-based sunscreens: These sunscreens are typically made with natural oils like coconut or argan oil and synthetic ingredients like mineral oil and petroleum jelly. While these moisturizing ingredients may be great for preventing stretch marks and nourishing skin, oil-based sunscreens have much lower SPF levels, sometimes as low as 5 SPF. It is difficult to blend UV blockers into an oil base and the natural oils also break down in sunlight, causing them to lose their effectiveness quickly. So, while creams made from cocoa and shea butter are great for dry skin and help prevent stretch marks, they're not your best bet for sun protection during pregnancy.
  • Chemical sunscreens: These sunscreens use chemicals called avobenzone or octinoxate which absorb UV rays and convert them into heat that is then released from the skin. They tend to be more lightweight and absorb quickly into the skin. However, they can irritate sensitive skin and some people may be allergic to its chemical ingredients, so be sure to patch test before use.
  • Mineral sunscreens: Made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, these physically block UV rays from penetrating the skin. They tend to be better for sensitive skin and are less likely to cause irritation. However, they can be thicker and take longer to absorb, and can sometimes leave a white residue on the skin.

Now, let's be real - laying out in the sun while pregnant can be extremely uncomfortable. Between the swollen ankles, the sweating, and the inevitable constant need to run inside the pee, who has the energy for that? But don't worry, you can still get your vitamin D through your diet and supplements. By doing so, you can ensure that you and your little one are getting the recommended amount of vitamin D necessary for optimal health and well-being.

Vitamin D through food

One of the best sources of vitamin D is oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel. These fish are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can support your baby's brain development. Red meat and liver are other great sources of this nutrient and are also high in iron and zinc which are important for fetal development.

Egg yolks are another great source of vitamin D. Start your day with an egg scramble. Mix in some veggies like spinach or peppers to get even more nutrients. You can also snack on hard-boiled eggs throughout the day. They're portable and a great source of protein and vitamin D.

If you're following a plant-based diet, many plant milks, yogurts, and orange juices are fortified with vitamin D. Look for brands that specify that they have added vitamin D to get the most benefits. You can also find this nutrient in fortified tofu and cereal. Mushrooms, especially when exposed to sunlight, are an excellent source of vitamin D. Research shows that exposing mushrooms to sunlight increases their vitamin D levels, without affecting their taste or other nutrients. To unlock the maximum vitamin D potential of your mushrooms, give them a quick rinse then place them in a container with the gills exposed to the sun for between 20-30 minutes. These foods can help support healthy fetal development, reduce the risk of complications, and boost your overall mood and well-being. So, go ahead and enjoy some salmon and mushrooms for dinner, and pour yourself a glass of fortified milk or orange juice in the morning. Your body and baby will thank you for it.


The recommended amount for pregnant women is around 600-800 IU (international units) per day. There are various types of Vitamin D supplements available, such as capsules, gummies, and liquids. Just remember, the dosage can vary depending on the brand, so make sure to read the label carefully. How much you need also depends on your current Vitamin D levels, which can be checked with a simple blood test. Your healthcare provider can check your levels and recommend the appropriate dosage for you. As always, talk to your doctor about your individual nutritional needs to make sure you're getting all the vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy pregnancy and postpartum period.

Vitamin D plays a vital role in maintaining the health of you and your growing baby during pregnancy and beyond. By ensuring adequate levels through safe sun exposure, a well-balanced diet, and supplements if necessary, you're setting yourself and your little one up for a healthier, happier future. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best approach for you. So go ahead, soak up that sunshine, enjoy some vitamin D-rich foods, and give your baby the gift of a strong and healthy start!


Abedi, P., Bovayri, M., Fakhri, A., & Jahanfar, S. (2018). The Relationship Between Vitamin D and Postpartum Depression in Reproductive-Aged Iranian Women.Journal of Medicine and Life,11(4), 286–292.

Cardwell, G., Bornman, J. F., James, A. P., & Black, L. J. (2018). A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D.Nutrients,10(10), 1498.

Hajhashemi, M., Khorsandi, A., & Haghollahi, F. (2019). Comparison of sun exposure versus vitamin D supplementation for pregnant women with vitamin D deficiency. The Journal of Maternal-fetal & Neonatal Medicine: the Official Journal of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine, the Federation of Asia and Oceania Perinatal Societies, the International Society of Perinatal Obstetricians,32(8), 1347–1352.

Kuritzky, L. A., & Beecker, J. (2015). Sunscreens.CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne,187(13), E419.

Seth, A., Marwaha, R. K., Singla, B., Aneja, S., Mehrotra, P., Sastry, A., Khurana, M. L., Mani, K., Sharma, B., & Tandon, N. (2009). Vitamin D nutritional status of exclusively breastfed infants and their mothers. Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism : JPEM,22(3), 241–246.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central,

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Disclaimer: This is general medical information and not specific medical advice.  It does not and should not replace diagnosis or treatment by your healthcare provider. If you are seeking personal recommendations, advice, and/or treatment, please consult your physician. If you have an emergency, you should contact 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.