Vitamin D in pregnancy may protect infants from virus
May 9th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Vitamin D in pregnancy may protect infants from virus

Infants who are deficient in vitamin D at birth are at six times higher risk for getting RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus during their first year of life compared with infants with very high levels of vitamin D, says a new study in the journal Pediatrics.

"Vitamin D intake during pregnancy most likely prevents a highly frequent, severe disease during infancy," said Dr. Louis Bont, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Wilhelmina Children's Hospital in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Most times, RSV results in cold-like symptoms for both adults and babies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says almost all children get the virus by the time they reach age 2, but only some develop severe disease.

Approximately 75,000 to 125,000 children under the age of 1 are hospitalized each year in the United States because of infection from RSV. Some get bronchiolitis, while others develop pneumonia. Bronchiolitis involves inflammation of the small airways in the lung. Pneumonia also is inflammation in the lungs.

Bont said it could also affect a child's quality of life.

"Once the children are discharged, half of them go on to still have asthma-like symptoms," he said.

The study looked at 156 newborns in the Netherlands. They found a strong association between cord blood vitamin D levels and women taking vitamin D3 supplements during their pregnancy. About half of newborns had low vitamin D levels, and 18 developed RSV lower respiratory tract infections during their first year.

Only 46% of women taking part in the study said they used vitamin D supplements during their pregnancy.

"I assume that American pregnant women are not that different from the Dutch- not everybody adheres to all guidelines existing," Bont said. "We show that [vitamin D intake] is relevant for a severe and frequent respiratory tract infection during infancy and I think this is a very good reminder that people should take what has been advocated."

The Institute of Medicine says that pregnant women need at least 400 international units of vitamin D per day, but the recommended daily allowance is 600 IUs each day.

"RSV is just one of the infections of early childhood that may be impacted by in-utero vitamin D," said Dr. Jennifer Shu, a practicing pediatrician and CNNHealth's Living Well expert. "Because RSV can be serious and difficult to treat, being able to prevent severe infections with vitamin D may decrease RSV rates and complications (and may help with other immune functions) in the future."

Shu said someday pregnant women may be advised to get more vitamin D, but that the ideal amount is not yet known.

"Prenatal vitamins do contain vitamin D, but research may prove that the amount needs to be increased," she said.

Bont agrees that it is too early to up the recommended dose.

"We don't know whether it's more effective and we don't know whether unexpected side effects could occur," he said. "We have to wait for trials."

The study took into consideration the seasons in which the women were pregnant. Researchers also studied giving the babies vitamin D supplements after birth. Neither had any impact on the findings.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. James Katt

    I would recommend at least 5,000 IU during pregnancy to prevent infections.

    Realize that 30% of schizophrenia occurs from a viral illness in the mother during pregnancy.

    May 9, 2011 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mercel

      It is scary learning certain things about pregnancy and childbearing.

      June 30, 2011 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
    • Lose babyweightast.co.uk

      Great article, thank you for posting it.
      I have a question though... if we get vitamin D from the sun, then why do mothers need to take a suppliment?
      Sorry, just read the post from Lou.. Answer solved.:)

      December 12, 2012 at 06:58 | Report abuse |
  2. CLS88

    The key to antiviral protection concerning vitamin D is to raise and maintain blood levels in the range of 50-80 ng/ml, 25 OH D.

    Year round and for life.

    The amount of vitamin D3 (NEVER D2 !) supplemented will depend on individual metabolism and in particualr BMI. Obese mothers will require much more supplementation to raise blood levels to healthy, natural, evolutionary repletion levels.

    Anyone maintains healthy levels of vitamin D will state without exception they contract fewer, if any colds and flu (myself).


    Also one other comment routinely reported: They have never felt better in their lives and typically feel 20-30 years younger in every aspect and bodily function (myself).

    Regarding respiratory syncytial virus diagnosis; is it linked to asthma diagnosis, autism, and food allergies?

    May 9, 2011 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. WellnessDrive

    The best Vitamin D3 that I have found is called Isotonix Vitamin D with K2. It has 5000 IU of D3 in an Isotonix delivery format that is way more efficient then any standard tablet. See for yourself at WellnessDrive.com or StoreOfWellness.com to learn about the Isotonix delivery.

    Of-course, always ask your Dr before taking anything – which makes this article very interesting and enlightening for protecting our babies.

    May 9, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lou

    This article is missing a lot of information. Go to Grassroots health and vitamin D council for much more accurate information over the amount of vitamin D really needed.

    Why is it that white people in bathing suit only standing in the sun at noon easily makes 10,000 -20,000 IU after 30 minutes compared to 600 IU that gov't recommends?

    Why is it that lactating mothers need as much as 6400 IU a day based on clinical study to be able to produce vitamin D rich breast milk? Isn't that a clue that we really need much more vitamin D than previously thought?

    Breastfeed Med. 2006 Summer;1(2):59-70.
    High-dose vitamin D3 supplementation in a cohort of breastfeeding mothers and their infants: a 6-month follow-up pilot study.
    Wagner CL, Hulsey TC, Fanning D, Ebeling M, Hollis BW.
    Department of Pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina 29425, USA. wagnercl@musc.edu
    To examine the effect of high-dose maternal vitamin D(3) (vitD) supplementation on the nutritional vitD status of breastfeeding (BF) women and their infants compared with maternal and infant controls receiving 400 and 300 IU vitD/day, respectively.

    Fully lactating women (n = 19) were enrolled at 1-month postpartum into a randomized- control pilot trial. Each mother received one of two treatments for a 6-month study period: 0 or 6000 IU vitD(3) plus a prenatal vitamin containing 400 IU vitD(3). The infants of mothers assigned to the control group received 300 IU vitD(3)/day; those infants of mothers in the high-dose group received 0 IU (placebo). Maternal serum and milk vitD and 25(OH)D were measured at baseline then monthly; infant serum vitD and 25(OH)D were measured at baseline, and months 4 and 7. Urinary calcium/creatinine ratios were measured monthly in both mothers and infants. Dietary and BF history and outdoor activity questionnaires were completed at each visit. Changes in skin pigmentation were measured by spectrophotometry. Data were analyzed using chi-square, t-test, and analysis of variance (ANOVA) on an intent-to-treat basis.

    High-dose (6400 IU/day) vitD(3) safely and significantly increased maternal circulating 25(OH)D and vitD from baseline compared to controls (p < 0.0028 and 0.0043, respectively). Mean milk antirachitic activity of mothers receiving 400 IU vitD/day decreased to a nadir of 45.6 at visit four and varied little during the study period (45.6-78.6 IU/L), whereas the mean activity in the 6400 IU/day group increased from 82 to 873 IU/L (p < 0.0003). There were no differences in circulating 25(OH)D levels of infants supplemented with oral vitD versus infants whose only source of vitD was breast milk.

    With limited sun exposure, an intake of 400 IU/day vitamin D(3) did not sustain circulating maternal 25(OH)D levels, and thus, supplied only extremely limited amounts of vitamin D to the nursing infant via breast milk. Infant levels achieved exclusively through maternal supplementation were equivalent to levels in infants who received oral vitamin D supplementation. Thus, a maternal intake of 6400 IU/day vitamin D elevated circulating 25(OH)D in both mother and nursing infant.

    May 11, 2011 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Lou

    Pregnant mothers need at least 4000 IU a day preferably a few months before they even try having babies because most are already deficient in vitamin D anyway. This will greatly cut down birthing complications and greatly reduce risk of babies getting asthma, allergies, autism, bone weakness and many more. Vitamin D deficiency is much more widespread than anyone realize.

    © 2004 American Society for Clinical Nutrition
    Vitamin D requirements during lactation: high-dose maternal supplementation as therapy to prevent hypovitaminosis D for both the mother and the nursing infant1,2,3,4
    Bruce W Hollis and Carol L Wagner
    1 From the Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC.

    Scientific data pertaining to vitamin D supplementation during lactation are scarce. The daily recommended intake for vitamin D during lactation has been arbitrarily set at 400 IU/d (10 µg/d). This recommendation is irrelevant with respect to maintaining the nutritional vitamin D status of mothers and nursing infants, especially among darkly pigmented individuals. Our objective was to examine the effect of high-dose maternal vitamin D2 supplementation on the nutritional vitamin D status of mothers and nursing infants. Fully lactating women (n = 18) were enrolled at 1 mo after birth to 1 of 2 treatment arms, ie, 1600 IU vitamin D2 and 400 IU vitamin D3 (prenatal vitamin) or 3600 IU vitamin D2 and 400 IU vitamin D3, for a 3-mo study period. High-dose (1600 or 3600 IU/d) vitamin D2 supplementation for a period of 3 mo safely increased circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations for both groups. The antirachitic activity of milk from mothers receiving 2000 IU/d vitamin D increased by 34.2 IU/L, on average, whereas the activity in the 4000 IU/d group increased by 94.2 IU/L. Nursing infant circulating 25(OH)D2 concentrations reflected maternal intake and the amount contained in the milk. With limited sun exposure, an intake of 400 IU/d vitamin D would not sustain circulating 25(OH)D concentrations and thus would supply only limited amounts of vitamin D to nursing infants in breast milk. A maternal intake of 2000 IU/d vitamin D would elevate circulating 25(OH)D concentrations for both mothers and nursing infants, albeit with limited capacity, especially with respect to nursing infants. A maternal intake of 4000 IU/d could achieve substantial progress toward improving both maternal and neonatal nutritional vitamin D status.

    Key Words: Vitamin D • human milk • lactation • 25-hydroxyvitamin D

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    Informative post – I found it especially valuable where you describe the potential dangers facing infants who are deficient in vitamin D at birth. Thank You.

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