Before you get pregnant, or right when you get pregnant, blood tests are done to check for anemia, certain viruses, blood type and other markers.
Increasingly, doctors are now also testing a woman’s vitamin D level. Vitamin D has been a hot topic in the medical world for a few years, but why and how is it affecting conception, pregnancy and the health of the newborn?
This question - about vitamin D and pregnancy - has kept scientists busy for almost a decade now. Let’s start by understanding what vitamin D is.
Vitamin D is Actually a Hormone
Vitamin D is a misnomer. This so-called vitamin is actually a hormone. For those of you chemically inclined - the 4 carbon ring backbone of this molecule makes it more of a steroid hormone than a vitamin. It is structurally similar to estrogen, testosterone, progesterone and all the steroid hormones. Technically speaking - for those more word inclined - a vitamin is a catalyst to a reaction in body, and a hormone is a chemical messenger that actually sends messages to cells that causes them to change. There is a distinct difference between the two, and vitamin D falls into the hormone category.
Because of its steroid structure and function, vitamin D plays an important role in priming cells for other hormones to do their job properly. This is why being sufficient in Vitamin D is so important for conception. Its not just the most well known hormones estrogen or progesterone that need to be balanced and functioning optimally, but the second string players as well- thyroid hormone, cortisol, dheas, testosterone and VITAMIN D too. These all need to be well balanced with each other in order for the miracle of ovulation and conception to occur.
Having enough vitamin D circulating through your system can increase your chances of fertility whether you’re struggling with poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), lack of ovulation or general fertility problems. This “hormone” also plays a role in male reproduction. Both sperm motility and production are increased when levels of vitamin D are normal. SO get your men tested too- as we all know it takes two to tango (so to speak).
Once pregnant, the focus shifts to the developing fetus who is dependent on maternal vitamin D levels. The placenta- which provides nutrition and oxygen to the growing fetus, requires vitamin D to function. In this study, the authors indicate that vitamin D may play a role in implantation of the pregnancy, normal placental development and the development and prevention of eclampsia. All imperative to a healthy full term pregnancy
Some studies have also looked at childhood health as related vitamin D levels in utero. Healthy maternal levels of vitamin D have been shown to decrease the likelihood of wheezing in their children. It is also implicated in the prevention of respiratory infections, type one diabetes and MS (multiple sclerosis).
With all this information stacking up, it makes sense that vitamin D levels should be monitored pre-conception and during the pregnancy. It’s a simple test that your doctor can order or you can get an at-home finger stick test through ZRT Lab.