Vitamin D Levels in Pregnancy and Baby’s Brain Development
Researchers found that babies of mothers who had adequate vitamin D levels score higher in tests for brain development than babies of those who had lower levels of the vitamin during pregnancy. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, involved more than 1,800 mothers who were evaluated for vitamin D levels during the second trimester (between the 4th to 6th months) of their pregnancy. Their babies were then tested for mental development and movement skills at 14 months of age, using standardized tests that lasted for about an hour.
The investigators observed that babies of mothers who had optimum vitamin D levels during pregnancy fared better in both tests than babies of women who were deficient in vitamin D. Although there were small differences in test scores, author Eva Morales, MD, PhD, MPH, of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona believes that these may have large impact on society, considering that there are many pregnant women who have low vitamin D levels. She adds, however, that further studies are needed to demonstrate if these developmental scores can predict future brain development in later life.
Valencia Walker, MD, a neonatologist at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA reviewed the study and states that it provides additional evidence that having adequate vitamin D levels before and during pregnancy is important. She states that certain groups of women are at risk for low vitamin D, such as the overweight or obese, women with dark skin and those who belong to lower socioeconomic levels. Women who live in northern states do not get enough sun exposure especially during winter, and are also vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin upon exposure to sunlight; hence it also called the “sunshine vitamin.”
McMillen, M. Vitamin D in Pregnancy May Be Key for Baby’s Brain. WebMD.