By naturopath Margaret Jasinska
Studies have shown that women who are vitamin D deficient while pregnant are much more likely to experience difficulties during labour that result in the need for a caesarean section.
According to Anne Merewood, an assistant paediatrics professor at Boston University School of Medicine, vitamin D deficient pregnant women are nearly four times more likely to end up having a C-section. “Vitamin D is definitely involved in muscle strength…. contractions of the uterus [made of smooth muscle] may not be performing as well as they could be”. Strong uterine muscles are required in order to push the baby out.
We have known for a long time that vitamin D is necessary for strong bones. It helps to get the calcium from your diet and nutritional supplements into your bones where it’s needed. More recent research has shown that vitamin D is also required for strong muscles and a healthy immune system. Being low in vitamin D can also increase the amount of inflammation inside your body.
A lot of people are vitamin D deficient; particularly pregnant women.
We make vitamin D in our skin from exposure to the sun’s UVB rays, but many people don’t get enough sunshine to manufacture sufficient vitamin D in their body.
The requirement for vitamin D increases during pregnancy. Vitamin D is found in all preconception and pregnancy vitamin supplements, but there’s just not enough in there. Most women need to take a vitamin D supplement in addition to their pregnancy formula. This is a much bigger problem for women who are pregnant during winter, as in most parts of the world the sun’s UVB rays are too weak at this time of year to produce much vitamin D.
The trick to increasing your vitamin D level is to get brief yet frequent sun exposure, preferably between the hours of 11am and 2pm. Your skin tone will determine how long you need to be outside in order to manufacture sufficient vitamin D. Fair skinned people do not have much melanin in their skin, therefore they absorb UVB rays well. Dark skinned individuals need a lot more time in the sun to manufacture vitamin D.
The only way to know if you have sufficient vitamin D in your body is to have a blood test. The level in your blood for optimal health should be between 100 and 200 nmol/L. It is very important for pregnant women and women wishing to fall pregnant to have this blood test.
Most people need to take a vitamin D supplement to achieve an optimal blood level of this nutrient, unless they spend a lot of time in the sun. The average person needs to take between 2000 and 8000 IU per day. If you do get your vitamin D from the sun, please be sensible about it and avoid becoming sun burnt.
Sometimes a cesarean delivery cannot be avoided and that’s okay. A vaginal delivery is usually healthier for the baby because it receives a good dose of probiotics while passing through the birth canal that enhance immune and digestive health in the infant.