Vitamin D levels are important during pregnancy, as this plays a role in many physiological processes, as well as with infant neurodevelopment. Previous research has shown that approximately 33% of pregnant and lactating women in the U.S. have vitamin D insufficiency. A vitamin D deficiency can be associated with poor health outcomes such as gestational diabetes, asthma, preeclampsia, abnormal skeletal development, low birth weight, and premature birth.
According to a new study published earlier this week in Nutrients, researchers investigated the effect of vitamin D status during the first and third trimester of pregnancy on infant neurodevelopment, including language, cognitive function, and motor skills. The large, prospective, longitudinal study included 793 women with an average age of 30 years who were recruited before week 12 of their pregnancy. There were 422 mother–infant pairs who were followed up at postpartum visits. Assessment and data collections were made for socio-demographic, nutritional, and psychological variables, and vitamin D levels were taken in the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. At 40 days postpartum, the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-III was administered to the infants, and numerous obstetrical data was collected.
In the first trimester, the research team observed that 50.2% of the pregnant women had a vitamin D deficiency, 30.3% had a vitamin D insufficiency, and 19.5% had normal vitamin D levels. In the third trimester, 49.7% of the pregnant women had a vitamin D sufficiency, 33.2% had a vitamin D insufficiency, and 17.2% had normal vitamin D levels.
As a result, a vitamin D deficiency in the first trimester of pregnancy predicted worse language and cognitive skills performance. Language performance worsened with lower vitamin D levels equivalent to approximately 10 ng/mL. In the third trimester, this greatly deficient level was also associated with lower motor skills.
Women who are pregnant know the important of adequate folate levels and vitamin D should be no different. Vitamin D insufficiency is a worldwide major health concern. Adequate vitamin D levels are essential during pregnancy for optimal infant neurodevelopment.
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS