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Table of Contents
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 593-596

Vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy

1 Department of Endocrinology, Medanta the Medicity, Gurgaon, India
2 Department of Endocrinology, Bharti Hospital and B.R.I.D.E., Karnal, Haryana, India

Date of Web Publication19-Aug-2014

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay Kalra
Department of Endocrinology, Bharti Hospital and B.R.I.D.E., Karnal, Haryana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-8210.139204

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How to cite this article:
Mithal A, Kalra S. Vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy. Indian J Endocr Metab 2014;18:593-6

How to cite this URL:
Mithal A, Kalra S. Vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy. Indian J Endocr Metab [serial online] 2014 [cited 2021 Jan 26];18:593-6. Available from: https://www.ijem.in/text.asp?2014/18/5/593/139204

Obstetric endocrinology is a field characterized by opportunity, challenges and caution. Opportunity, because the antenatal period presents a window during which endocrine and metabolic manipulation can impact not only maternal and fetal health, but also long-term outcomes in offspring. Caution is necessary, too, because the same therapy may lead to unwanted adverse effects in the innocent fetus, and have (as yet unknown) long-term complications. Challenges in obstetric endocrinology are unique, too, as ethical and practical issues make it difficult to conduct randomized placebo controlled trials as many situations. The rapidly increasing incidence of endocrine dysfunction in obstetrics, and the public health importance of these conditions, therefore, require closer attention and debate.

Issues relates to obstetric thyroidology and gestational diabetes mellitus [1],[2] have been discussed in the pages of IJEM earlier. The editorial focuses on another controversial field of obstetric metabolism: Vitamin D and pregnancy.

   Vitamin D Deficiency in Pregnancy Top

Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are common across the globe. Large epidemiological studies reveal the high prevalence of vitamin D in women, including antenatal and lactating mothers. [3],[4],[5]

Vitamin D requirements are probably greater in pregnancy, as evidenced by physiologically higher 1,25-dehydroxy vitamin D levels seen in the second and third trimesters. While 1,25(OH) 2 D levels do not correlate directly with 25 hydroxy vitamin D concentrations, the physiological rise in the active metabolite, the enhanced intestinal calcium absorption, and enhanced fetal requirement of calcium (250 mg/day in the third trimester) all point to the importance of vitamin D biology in pregnancy. [6]

The musculoskeletal manifestations of vitamin D deficiency are well known: Rickets and osteomalacia have been linked with the condition for nearly a century now. Myriad metabolic, nonskeletal associations of vitamin D deficiency are now being unraveled as well. Various authors report links between low vitamin D levels and various elements of the metabolic syndrome. Yet others describe the immunomodulatory, anabolic, anti-infective and anti-tumoral potential of vitamin D.

Maternal secondary hyperparathyroidism and osteomalacia, neonatal hypocalcemia and tetany, delayed ossification of the cranial vertex, enlarged size of cranial, fontanelles, and impaired fetal bone ossification has been reported by various authors, and reviewed in detail by others. [6]

The relationship between low vitamin D and adverse maternal outcomes such as pregnancy - induced hypertension, [7] high blood pressure in diabetic pregnancy, [8] gestational diabetes mellitus, [9] recurrent pregnancy loss, [10] preterm delivery, [11] primary Caesarian section, [12] and postpartum depression [13] has been documented in recent years.

Evidence has also accumulated regarding the impact of maternal vitamin D levels on long-term health of offspring [6],[14] Data related to effects of maternal vitamin D on skeletal integrity in childhood is conflicting. One study which assessed bone mass at 9 years of age, found a positive correlation with high maternal vitamin D, [15] whereas another analysis of the same longitudinal study could not detect any relevant association. [16] Nested case control studies have shown a high risk of type 1 diabetes in offspring of women with low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy, [17] though vitamin D intake from either food or supplements has not been shown to increase this risk in a population based cohort infants at genetic risk of type 1 diabetes. [18] Other authors have described the association of maternal vitamin D deficiency with asthma and impaired lung function in offspring. [19]

   Vitamin D Supplementation Top

Randomized controlled trials are available to support the need for, and benefits of, vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy. While older studies were relatively smaller, and limited to 3-4 months duration, [14] newer data proves the safety and efficacy of 4000 IU vitamin D, administered daily over 6 months of pregnancy. [20] This study by Holles et al. demonstrates a significant decrease in complications of pregnancy including primary Cesarian section, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and comorbidities of pregnancy. [20] It has not however, found any correlation between maternal vitamin D and birth weight. Simultaneously, no adverse event due to vitamin D was documented in any subject. The study conducted by Holles et al. is significant, because of the duration of the study (from 12 weeks gestation onwards), the dose used (400, 2000, and 4000 IU daily), the ethical decision to have a control group supplemented with 400 IU/day the large subject size, the need to take an investigational new drug approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, and the fact that it is the first study to address this question in nearly three decades. Similar results were found by Dawodu et al., who supplemented vitamin D in doses of 2000 and 4000 IU/day, from 12 to 16 weeks gestation onwards, to antenatal Arab women from vitamin D deficient regions. [21] Thus, the results of both studies can be extrapolated to other heliophobic, vitamin D deficient countries such as India. Yet another study from New Zealand has proven the safety and utility of supplementing 2000 IU/day of vitamin D from 27 weeks onwards, and continuing 800 IU/day supplementation in infants till 6 months of age. [22]

These studies have not been included in the most recent (2012) Cochrane review on vitamin D supplementation for women during pregnancy. This may be reason for the Cochrane authors to conclude that there is a requirement for "further rigorous randomized trials" to evaluate this subject. [23]

   Targets and Strategies Top

While there is general consensus regarding the need for vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy, there is confusion regarding optimal target levels, and the dose required to achieve them.

The optimal level of vitamin D in nonpregnant adults is defined as levels of 25(OH) D which are required to maintain serum parathormone levels and prevent secondary hyperparathyroidism. Following this line of thought, normal levels in pregnancy should be the same as those in nonpregnant adults. The added dimensions of fetal health, and later health of offspring, however, complicate the issue. Data regarding the effect of increasing vitamin D levels on birth weight, neonatal health, later health, and maternal outcomes is scarce.

   Normal Vitamin D Levels in Pregnancy Top

There is little consensus on what constitutes a 'normal' 25(OH)D level in pregnancy. The Institute of Medicine recommendations suggest a normal level of 20 ng/ml in pregnancy, while the Endocrine Society recommends 30 ng/ml or more. [24],[25] However, using mathematical models, Holles et al. suggest that pregnant women should have a circulating vitamin D >40 ng/ml, irrespective of how it is achieved. [14] They quote data from Luxwolda who states that pregnant tribal African women achieve levels of 60 ng/ml, when compared to their nonpregnant peers, who enjoy mean vitamin D concentrations of 46 ng/ml. The minimum normal level of 40 ng/ml in pregnancy that Holles et al. suggest for optimizing, vitamin D health is meant to support 1,25(OH) 2D production by overcoming "substrate limitation".

Given the lack of solid, consistent outcome data with higher levels of 25(OH)D, we feel that a minimum level of 20 ng/ml would be desirable in pregnancy. This still leaves scope for better outcomes with higher levels, and further data is awaited.

   Recommended Daily Dose Top

The recommended daily intake of vitamin D ranges from 400 to 600 IU (by the IOM), [26] 400 IU (by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, United Kingdom), [27] and to 1500-2000 IU (by the Endocrine Society), [28] and 2000 IU (by the Canadian Society). [29] Results of the recently conducted randomized controlled trial on vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy suggest a safe dose of 2000-4000 IU/day. [14],[20],[21],[22] The daily upper safe limit for vitamin D has been set at 4000 IU by IOM and 10,000 IU by the Endocrine Society. [26],[28]

   Indian Evidence Top

While discussing the dose of vitamin D in pregnancy, one most remember the extremely low levels of vitamin D seen in South Asian women. Three decades ago, Marya et al. from Rohtak used surrogate markers such as serum calcium and heat-labile alkaline phosphatase to demonstrate the benefits of 1200 IU/day of vitamin D on fetal and maternal outcomes. [29],[30] More recently, Kalra et al. described the results of vitamin D supplementation in doses as low as a single 1500 mcg second trimester dose, and two 3000 mcg doses (one each in second and third trimester). Both does improved infant anthropometry, whereas the larger dose also increased maternal vitamin D levels. [31] Sahu et al., from the same institute, [32] reported that cholecalciferol in doses of 120,000 U each in fifth and seventh gestational months was effective in raising 25OHD at delivery, though end of study levels were barely in the normal range.

   Conclusion Top

As we mentioned initially, obstetric endocrinology is a field marked by both opportunity and caution. With the available evidence regarding vitamin D supplementation, and the conflicting interpretations of whatever has been published, it becomes challenging to issue evidence-based guidelines. However, the benefit of vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy is potentially even greater than in the nonpregnant state. Yet, we continue to prescribe lower doses to pregnant women than to their nonpregnant peers, perhaps because of an unfounded fear of side effects.

Symptomatic or documented vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women should be treated in the same manner as in nonpregnant individuals. Daily doses of 4000 units/day are recommended for treatment in pregnancy. The use of lower doses of vitamin D, as contained in most prenatal calcium preparations (100-800 IU) cannot be condoned in symptomatic patients, or in those with documented low levels.

In healthy, asymptomatic antenatal women, 1000-2000 IU can be supplemented daily in the second and third trimesters, without fear of vitamin D toxicity or teratogenicity. No safety data, however, is available for the first trimester with this dose, either.

Serum alkaline phosphate, a surrogate marker of vitamin D deficiency, cannot be used as such in pregnancy, because of the placental secretion of this enzyme. 25 hydroxy vitamin D levels may be measured in each trimester, if easily affordable. In routine practice, however, this investigation is not necessary. In resource constrained settings, patients on vitamin D therapy can be screened for hypercalcemia by checking for calcium crystalluria.

As in other fields of obstetric endocrinology, there is an urgent need for greater research in vitamin D therapeutics in pregnancy. While we wait for more robust data, we should continue to supplement this nutrient in all pregnant women from the 12 th week of gestation onwards. Daily doses of 1000-2000 IU can be recommended in all antenatal women in South Asia, without estimating serum 25(OH) D levels. Higher doses can be used in symptomatic antenatal women, and in those with documented severe deficiency. Recent studies suggest that higher doses, as used in non pregnant women, are safe and effective, and as more data become available, one may recommend standard weekly regimens. However at present it may be safest to adhere to 4000 IU/day as a standard practice in India.

   References Top

1.Kalra S, Malik S, John M. Gestational diabetes mellitus: A window of opportunity. Indian J Endocrinol Metab 2011;15:149-51.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Kalra S, Baruah MP, Unnikrishnan AG. Hypothyroidism in pregnancy: From unanswered questions to questionable answers. Indian J Endocrinol Metab 2013;17:200-2.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Mithal A, Wahl DA, Bonjour JP, Burckhardt P, Dawson-Hughes B, Eisman JA, et al. Global vitamin D status and determinants of hypovitaminosis D. Osteoporos Int 2009;20:1807-20.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Sahu M, Bhatia V, Aggarwal A, Rawat V, Saxena P, Pandey A, et al. Vitamin D deficiency in rural girls and pregnant women despite abundant sunshine in northern India. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2009;70:680-4.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Dasgupta A, Saikia U, Sarma D. Status of 25(OH)D levels in pregnancy: A study from the North Eastern part of India. Indian J Endocrinol Metab 2012;16:S405-7.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Specker BL. Does vitamin D during pregnancy impact offspring growth and bone? Proc Nutr Soc 2012;71:38-45.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Hyppönen E, Cavadino A, Williams D, Fraser A, Vereczkey A, Fraser WD, et al. Vitamin D and pre-eclampsia: Original data, systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Nutr Metab 2013;63:331-40.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Weinert LS, Reichelt AJ, Schmitt LR, Boff R, Oppermann ML, Camargo JL, et al. Serum vitamin D insufficiency is related to blood pressure in diabetic pregnancy. Am J Hypertens 2014. [In press].  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Lacroix M, Battista MC, Doyon M, Houde G, Ménard J, Ardilouze JL, et al. Lower vitamin D levels at first trimester are associated with higher risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus. Acta Diabetol 2014;51:609-16.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Ota K, Dambaeva S, Han AR, Beaman K, Gilman-Sachs A, Kwak-Kim J. Vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for recurrent pregnancy losses by increasing cellular immunity and autoimmunity. Hum Reprod 2014;29:208-19.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Bodnar LM, Klebanoff MA, Gernand AD, Platt RW, Parks WT, Catov JM, et al. Maternal vitamin D status and spontaneous preterm birth by placental histology in the US Collaborative Perinatal Project. Am J Epidemiol 2014;179:168-76.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Merewood A, Mehta SD, Chen TC, Bauchner H, Holick MF. Association between vitamin D deficiency and primary cesarean section. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2009;94:940-5.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Robinson M, Whitehouse AJ, Newnham JP, Gorman S, Jacoby P, Holt BJ, et al. Low maternal serum vitamin D during pregnancy and the risk for postpartum depression symptoms. Arch Womens Ment Health 2014;17:213-9.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Hollis BW, Wagner CL. Vitamin D and pregnancy: Skeletal effects, nonskeletal effects, and birth outcomes. Calcif Tissue Int 2013;92:128-39.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Javaid MK, Crozier SR, Harvey NC, Gale CR, Dennison EM, Boucher BJ, et al. Maternal vitamin D status during pregnancy and childhood bone mass at age 9 years: A longitudinal study. Lancet 2006;367:36-43.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Lawlor DA, Wills AK, Fraser A, Sayers A, Fraser WD, Tobias JH. Association of maternal vitamin D status during pregnancy with bone-mineral content in offspring: A prospective cohort study. Lancet 2013;381:2176-83.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Sørensen IM, Joner G, Jenum PA, Eskild A, Torjesen PA, Stene LC. Maternal serum levels of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D during pregnancy and risk of type 1 diabetes in the offspring. Diabetes 2012;61:175-8.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Marjamäki L, Niinistö S, Kenward MG, Uusitalo L, Uusitalo U, Ovaskainen ML, et al. Maternal intake of vitamin D during pregnancy and risk of advanced beta cell autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes in offspring. Diabetologia 2010;53:1599-607.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Zosky GR, Hart PH, Whitehouse AJ, Kusel MM, Ang W, Foong RE, et al. Vitamin D deficiency at 16-20 weeks gestation is associated with impaired lung function and asthma at 6 years of age. Ann Am Thorac Soc 2014;11:571-7.  Back to cited text no. 19
20.Hollis BW, Johnson D, Hulsey TC, Ebeling M, Wagner CL. Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy: Double-blind, randomized clinical trial of safety and effectiveness. J Bone Miner Res 2011;26:2341-57.  Back to cited text no. 20
21.Dawodu A, Saadi HF, Bekdache G, Javed Y, Altaye M, Hollis BW. Randomized controlled trial (RCT) of vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy in a population with endemic vitamin D deficiency. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2013;98:2337-46.  Back to cited text no. 21
22.Grant CC, Stewart AW, Scragg R, Milne T, Rowden J, Ekeroma A, et al. Vitamin D during pregnancy and infancy and infant serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration. Pediatrics 2014;133:e143-53.  Back to cited text no. 22
23.De-Regil LM, Palacios C, Ansary A, Kulier R, Peña-Rosas JP. Vitamin D supplementation for women during pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012;2:CD008873.  Back to cited text no. 23
24.Food and Nutrition Board, Standing Committee in the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary References Intakes. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium. Washington DC: National Academics Press; 2010.  Back to cited text no. 24
25.Holick MF, Binkley NC, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Gordon CM, Hanley DA, Heaney RP, et al. Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: An Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2011;96:1911-30.  Back to cited text no. 25
26.NICE. Antenatal care. Available from: http://www.nice.org.uk. [Last accessed on 2014 Apr 07].  Back to cited text no. 26
27.Godel JC. Postition statement vitamin D supplementation: Recommendations for Canadian mothers and infants. Available from: http://www.cps.ca/en. [Last accessed on 2014 Mar 15].  Back to cited text no. 27
28.Marya RK, Rathee S, Lata V, Mudgil S. Effects of vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy. Gynecol Obstet Invest 1981;12:155-61.  Back to cited text no. 28
29.Marya RK, Rathee S, Manrow M. Effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on toxaemia of pregnancy. Gynecol Obstet Invest 1987;24:38-42.  Back to cited text no. 29
30.Marya RK, Rathee S, Dua V, Sangwan K. Effect of vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy on foetal growth. Indian J Med Res 1988;88:488-92.  Back to cited text no. 30
31.Kalra P, Das V, Agarwal A, Kumar M, Ramesh V, Bhatia E, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy on neonatal mineral homeostasis and anthropometry of the newborn and infant. Br J Nutr 2012;108:1052-8.  Back to cited text no. 31
32.Sahu M, Das V, Aggarwal A, Rawat V, Saxena P, Bhatia V. Vitamin D replacement in pregnant women in rural north India: A pilot study. Eur J Clin Nutr 2009;63:1157-9.  Back to cited text no. 32


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