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    Vitamin D Deficiency During Pregnancy Increases Preeclampsia Risk

    Baby Bump and Baby ShoesWomen suffering from a vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy, specifically during the first 26 weeks of pregnancy, have an increased risk of developing severe preeclampsia, suggests a recent study published in the journal Epidemiology.

    Preeclampsia is a serious and potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and significant amounts of protein in the urine. The only cure for the condition is giving birth. Preeclampsia is the most common dangerous pregnancy complication. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, approximately five to eight percent of pregnant women experience preeclampsia.

    Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, is a essential nutrient primarily responsible for enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphate. The vitamin is available through food sources and supplements but is also synthesized by the body after adequate exposure to sunlight.

    Pregnancy is a known risk factor for vitamin D deficiency.

    Previous studies have suggested that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk of gestational diabetes, infections, cesarean section, and low birth weight — all of which can cause additional health problems for mothers and babies.

    In the present study, the researchers sought to determine an association between vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and an increased risk of preeclampsia.

    To determine a link, if any, the researchers analyzed serum collected at less than 26 weeks of pregnancy from a cohort of women enrolled at 12 sites in the United States from 1959 to 1966 in the Collaborative Perinatal Project. The participants included 717 women who later developed preeclampsia (560 mild, 157 severe) and 2,986 women without preeclampsia.

    The researchers note that the samples were well-preserved despite the decades between collection and analysis.

    According to the study, women with insufficient levels of vitamin D during the first 26 weeks of pregnancy were 40 percent more likely to develop severe preeclampsia compared with women with adequate levels of the vitamin during the same time period.

    In other words, vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy may increase the risk of severe preeclampsia.

    The researchers did not find a link between mild preeclampsia and vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy.

    Explains Lisa Bodnar, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., an associate professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology and the lead author on the study: “For decades, vitamin D was known as a nutrient that was important only for bone health. Over the past 10 to 15 years, scientists have learned that vitamin D has diverse functions in the body beyond maintaining the skeleton, including actions that may be important for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.”

    Commenting on the differences in findings for mild preeclampsia and severe preeclampsia, senior author Mark A. Klebanoff, M.D., M.P.H., Center for Perinatal Research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, explains, “Scientists believe that severe preeclampsia and mild preeclampsia have different root causes. Severe preeclampsia poses much higher health risks to the mother and child, so linking it with a factor that we can easily treat, like vitamin D deficiency, holds great potential.”

    Additional research is needed to determine whether the association between vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and severe preeclampsia remains true for modern women.

    Comments Dr. Bodnar, “If our results hold true in a modern sample of pregnant women, then further exploring the role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of preeclampsia would be warranted. Until then, women shouldn’t automatically take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy as a result of these findings.”

    Another recent study on vitamin D questioned the health benefits of vitamin D supplements. To prevent vitamin D deficiency, pregnant women should also get enough sunlight each day in addition to taking supplements.


    Low Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy May Increase Risk of Severe Preeclampsia:
    Maternal Vitamin D Status and the Risk of Mild and Severe Preeclampsia:
    Vitamin D Deficiency in Pregnancy ‘Increases Preeclampsia Risk’:

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