Women deficient in vitamin D early in their pregnancies are more likely to deliver babies with lower birth weights, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health research reveals.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will be reported in the January print edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and is now available online.
"A mother's vitamin D level early in pregnancy may impact the growth of her baby later in pregnancy," said lead author Alison Gernand, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., post-doctoral associate in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology. "Also, if the mother was deficient in vitamin D during the first trimester, her baby had twice the risk of suffering from growth restriction in utero."
Dr. Gernand and her co-authors discovered that mothers with levels of vitamin D in their blood of less than 0.015 parts per million (37.5 nmol/L) in their first 26 weeks of pregnancy delivered babies who weighed an average of 46 grams less than their peers. Only full-term babies - those delivered between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy - were included in the study.
In addition, women who were vitamin D deficient in the first trimester of pregnancy - 14 weeks or less - were twice as likely to have babies who fell in the lower 10th percentile for weight when compared to other full-term babies born in the same week of pregnancy, a condition known as "small for gestational age."
Babies born small for gestational age are at five to 10 times greater risk for death in their first month and have a higher risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, later in life.
"This is one of the largest studies to examine a mother's vitamin D levels and their relationship with birth weights," said senior author Lisa M. Bodnar, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., assistant professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology. "It shows that clinical trials to determine if you can improve birth weights by giving women of reproductive age vitamin D supplements may be warranted."