A varied, healthy diet while undergoing IVF and during pregnancy should ensure you get a good balance of the nutrients you need. However, clinicians do recommend additional supplements, including the ‘sunshine vitamin’, D.
Not only does vitamin D help your body absorb the right amount of calcium and phosphate for mineralising your bones, it’s also an essential vitamin to support the development of your baby’s skeleton, teeth, heart and nervous system.
Here’s how to get your daily dose of vitamin D while pregnant.
Why pregnant women need vitamin D
As well as supporting the healthy development of a baby in the womb, vitamin D can also reduce the risk of some pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and premature labour. Beyond birth, and the breast-feeding mother will be the main source of vitamin D for their nursing child and so sufficient levels are also essential during those crucial first months of a baby’s development.
Particularly if you are undergoing IVF, you will also need to protect yourself from vitamin D deficiency. Research has shown that sufficient levels of vitamin D may help to increase the effectiveness of fertility therapy such as Letrozole treatment UK, which stimulates the ovaries to produce more follicles, where eggs develop ready for ovulation.
How much vitamin D do you need?
The recommended daily dose of vitamin D you need for good health is 10 micrograms, or 400IU. It is safe to take more, especially during the dark winter months or if you don’t spend a lot of time outside, but always consult your doctor or IVF clinician before increasing your daily amount. And you must never exceed more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) a day.
How to get your daily dose of D
To ensure you are getting adequate amounts of vitamin D every day, you should:
Get outside – our bodies are able to make vitamin D through the skin, but only when it is exposed to sunlight. When a type of cholesterol in your skin is exposed to the sun’s UV-B rays, it converts to vitamin D. This sun-derived vitamin D is thought to circulate longer in the body than the vitamin sourced via supplements or food. But the amount of D your skin can make does depend on several factors, including the time of year (you make more of the vitamin during the summer) and your skin tone.
It’s thought that as little as 15 minutes a day outside in the sunshine is enough to generate enough vitamin D. But you should always take precautions to protect your skin and avoid burning.
Eat the right foods
Vitamin D is naturally occurring in only certain foods, which should be included in a healthy and balanced diet. These foods include oily fish (eg. salmon and mackerel), mushrooms, eggs, and red meat. The vitamin can also be added to other foods, including some cereals, spreads and non-dairy milk alternatives.
Consider a supplement
For many, one of the easiest ways to get their vitamin D, especially during the winter, is through a supplement, which is often recommended to pregnant women, or women who are planning to have a baby. A supplement is also a good way to top up your natural vitamin D levels derived from being outside.
Vitamin D is available in two forms – D2 (which typically comes from animals) and the plant-based D3. D3 is considered the more effective in raising vitamin levels but when choosing the right supplement, it is important to always talk to your doctor or clinician for advice.