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We’ve written about the benefits of vitamin D when it comes to fertility, but research is also showing that the positive effects of this vitamin extend well beyond the phase of trying to conceive. Sufficient intake of vitamin D in pregnancy is now also believed to be very important.

A recent study found an association between deficient vitamin D levels during pregnancy and a higher risk – almost a 2-fold increase – for multiple sclerosis in the children of these mothers later on in life. This finding comes after previous research has shown low levels of vitamin D in pregnant mothers can lead to heavier infants, as well as an increased risk of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In New Zealand, recent research has shown that vitamin D supplementation can help prevent not only the development of allergies in young children, but also asthma. In the clinical trial that was performed, vitamin D supplements were given to pregnant mothers beginning at 27 weeks gestation and continued until the infant was 6 months old. A year later – at 18 months of age – these children still showed signs of reduced allergies (house dust mites were specifically measured). This extended protection shows the importance of vitamin D on the developing immune system, which happens in late pregnancy and early infancy, and the way that intervention early on in life can alter a child’s sensitivity to allergens.

Finally, and perhaps most interesting, findings from a meta analysis published earlier this year examining vitamin D and adverse birth outcomes added to the growing base of information. Although data was limited in the study – and the authors were transparent about the need for further randomized trials before firm conclusions can be made – it appeared that vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of preterm birth and having a baby with low birthweight. There was also some evidence that vitamin D supplementation increases infant length and head circumference at birth.

While specific correlations or benefits may still need further analysis, one thing seems clear: if you’re pregnant, increasing your daily vitamin D intake is a good idea.

If you’re interested in learning more about your own levels of vitamin D, starting a supplement, or perhaps taking an in-home test, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.