Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for pregnant women and young children. Supplements are already recommended for all women during their pregnancy and for children under 5, and studies have shown that deficiencies can lead to bones weaknesses and deformities. However, up until now, there has been very little research into the effect it could have on women trying to conceive.

As part of a new study, researchers looked at the levels of vitamin D in the blood or women trying to get pregnant. The women who took part had already experienced a miscarriage. The results show that those who had the recommended levels of vitamin D in their blood prior to conception were 15% more likely to have a live birth. They also found that as the levels decreased, the risk of miscarriage went up and these women were more likely to take a long time to conceive.

The study considered vitamin D levels of 30 nanograms per millilitre or less as “insufficient”. Women who were above this threshold were as much as 10% more likely to conceive as women who failed to reach it. For each increase of 10 nanograms per millilitre, the researchers also found that there was a 12% reduction in the risk of miscarriage.

According to researcher Dr Sunni Mumford, from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Rockville, Maryland: “Our findings suggest that vitamin D may play a protective role in pregnancy.” This confirms previous studies that had suggested vitamin D could be beneficial to women undergoing IVF treatment.

Up to 90% of vitamin D is absorbed through the skin from sunlight. The worry is that in colder climates it can be very easy for deficiencies to occur. Not getting a balanced diet or spending too much time indoors can be key factors in not getting enough of the essential nutrient. However, the researchers noted that further research would be needed to prove that vitamin D was the cause of the fertility changes, as it could be down to other factors including poor diet and lifestyle choices.

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