Low vitamin D levels in the first trimester are linked to the risk of a baby being born small for gestational age, according to a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Natural sunlight is the major source of vitamin D for children and adults as very few foods naturally contain or are fortified with vitamin D. Although vitamin D deficiency is known to result in abnormalities in calcium, phosphorus, and bone metabolism, previous studies have shown inconsistent associations between maternal vitamin D status and fetal size.
In the new study, researchers examined more than 2,000 women delivering term, live births with vitamin D levels measured at a gestation of 26 weeks or less. Birth weight was measured just after birth and infant head circumference and placental weight were measured within 24 hours of birth.
The researchers found that a mother's vitamin D level, in the first or second trimester of pregnancy, was related to the normal growth of babies who delivered at term. "If a mother was vitamin D deficient, the birth weight of her baby was 46 g lower after accounting for other characteristics," said Alison Gernand, of the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study. "Also if moms were vitamin D deficient in the first trimester, they had twice the risk of delivering a baby that suffered from growth restriction during the pregnancy."
"Our study is an important contribution to the epidemiologic evidence that maternal vitamin D status, especially in early pregnancy, may contribute to both pathological and physiological fetal growth," added co-researcher Lisa Bodnar. "Randomized trials that supplement pregnant women with vitamin D are needed to test this finding."
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Source: The Endocrine Society