Vitamin D May Reduce C-Section Risks

The newest research suggests that taking more vitamin D may cut a woman's risk for complications of pregnancy and caesarean delivery. This data flies in the face of the long-held position that taking too much vitamin D might be toxic for a growing fetus. Now this view is being rocked at its very foundations.

Not Enough

This study was a collaborative effort by Dr. Bruce Hollis who is the director of pediatric nutritional sciences at South Carolina's Medical University and Dr. Michael F. Holick, a researcher at Boston University's School of Medicine. The results of the study indicate that pregnant women aren't getting enough vitamin D from diet alone.

Hollis and colleagues studied 500 women of at least 12 weeks gestation. The women were divided into groups and given varying doses of vitamin D supplements. Some women were given 400 IU of vitamin D, with others taking 2,000 or 4,000 IU. The women who consumed the highest amount of the vitamin on a daily basis were found to be the least likely to experience premature labor, premature delivery, and also developed far fewer infections during the course of their pregnancies. 

"Pregnant women need to take 4,000 IU of vitamin D a day," said Hollis. "We didn’t see a single adverse effect."

Vast Decrease

Hollis feels that this dosage is quite safe and even beneficial. He adds that the decrease in the percentages for preterm labor and other pregnancy complications in this group were vast.

Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Elisa Ross from the Institute of Women's Health commented,

"In the olden days, we thought vitamin D could be associated with certain birth defects and may cause more calcium to build up in the women’s blood. If this study is confirmed—which I am hoping it will be—it will increase the amount of vitamin D we recommend 10-fold."

Early Pregnancy

Some experts remain more cautious saying that the study had not tested high levels of vitamin D on women in their earliest weeks of pregnancy, when the developing fetus is most susceptible to the effects of drugs and supplements. Others say that more research needs to be done to determine the blood levels of vitamin D of the fetus whose mother takes large quantities of the vitamin during gestation.

Meantime, Dr. Holick's team looked at 253 women who delivered at a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. The average age of the participants was 25 and all had lived in the area their entire pregnancies. Blood levels of vitamin D were tested just after the women gave birth.

Holick's team found that women deficient in vitamin D had a risk for caesarean delivery 4 times greater than in women who had normal levels of the vitamin.  Holick intends to take this research further to see if increasing a woman's intake of vitamin D could be correlated to a lowered risk for caesarean delivery. A report of this research was published in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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