Vitamin D and Infertility

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You might have heard of the importance of Vitamin D in keeping a person in his/her pink of health.  Of late, there have numerous medical studies that shed light on the importance having adequate vitamin D count in the body.  Vitamin D is produced in the skin in response to exposure to sunlight, which is why it is also known as “sunshine vitamin”.  It can also be consumed through food and health supplements.

In a human body, the primary function of Vitamin D is to keep bones healthy and strong by helping the body accept calcium.  Researchers have pointed out how vitamin D deficiency affects the overall health of a person, including its role in chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer.  It was believed that vitamin D affects only the cells that live in the bone, but it has been found out that Vitamin D affects many different types of cells in different organs in the body.  To be more precise, vitamin D impacts the way a cell in an organ carries out its function.  However, what people don’t know is the importance of vitamin D in keeping oneself fertile.  Yes, vitamin D status may affect one’s ability to be reproductive.

What is vitamin D?

The main form of vitamin D in the body is Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).  It is a form produced in the skin and it can be found in some food and nutritional supplements.  However, when vitamin D is prescribed, it is vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).  Medical studies have shown that we metabolize vitamin D3 more efficiently than vitamin D2.

We can produce the required amount of vitamin D by ourselves if we give enough time in the sun.  However, many women may not get enough sun exposure throughout the year to produce the right amount of vitamin D required for their body.  What makes producing vitamin D even more difficult is only few foods are naturally rich in vitamin D, so it is not very easy to get enough vitamin D from diet.  There are multiple factors that affect the level of vitamin D in a person.  For example, if you are overweight or have dark skin, you may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency.  For all the above-mentioned reasons, many women trying to get pregnant are likely to suffer from low vitamin D level.

Role of vitamin D in fertility:

A variety of health benefits has been attributed to vitamin D.  For wannabe moms, it boosts one’s chances of conceiving a child.  Apart from that, Vitamin D plays a vital role in the healthof many female organs, including the ovary, uterus, and placenta.Because of these potential health benefits of vitamin D in women, in some hospitals female patients are tested for vitamin D deficiency as part of their initial pregnancy screening process.  Though not conclusive, several medical studies have found out that vitamin D blood levels of 30 ng/mL or higher are linked to higher pregnancy rates. 

Vitamin D plays a vital role in assistive reproductive technology as well.  Having a healthy vitamin D count improves success rate in both in vitro fertilization (IVF) as well as transfer of frozen donor egg embryos.  In case of IVF, a woman with normal vitamin D count is four times more likely to get pregnant compared to those who had a low vitamin D level.  As for the donor egg recipients, a normal vitamin D level multiplied the chances of getting pregnant.  Furthermore, it has been medically proven that women with a level greater than 30 ng/mL had higher birth rates than women with lower vitamin D levels.

Are you wondering how much vitamin D is normal?  As a rule of thumb, a range of 30 ng/mL is considered to be normal.

Role of vitamin D during pregnancy:

Apart from positively impacting fertility, a normal vitamin D count also improves the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and delivery.  Believe it or not, researchers found out that women with adequate level of vitamin D were about 34% more likely to have a healthy pregnancy.  If the vitamin D is low, it may lead to preterm birth, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (very high blood pressure during pregnancy) and bacterial vaginosis.  It makes sense continuing Vitamin D supplements once pregnant, it is good for both mom and baby.  Vitamin D deficiency in newborns can be prevented by taking2,000 – 4,000 IU of vitamin D during pregnancy (make sure you consult your gynecologist before that).

Given the proven benefits of vitamin D in general well being and fertility in particular, we should err on the side of having women replete with vitamin D as they try to get pregnant.

Tips to get adequate vitamin D:

If you can’t expose your bare skin to sunlight to get vitamin D, it is ideal to include foods rich with vitamin D in your diet.  Some of them are the following:

  • Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
  • Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks

To sum up, given the compelling role played by vitamin D not only in fertility, but in overall health as well, it is prudent to check your vitamin D count if you are thinking of getting pregnant.

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