Pregnant? Get Your Sunlight

New studies highlight the complicated role vitamin D plays in health.

Along with all the other stuff you’ve got to worry about when you’re pregnant—coffee or no coffee? The occasional glass of wine? How old’s your baby daddy?—here comes another. A group of Canadian researchers exploring vitamin D and adverse health reactions in pregnant women performed a meta-analysis of 31 different studies and found associations between deficiencies of the “Sunshine Vitamin” and complications including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and bacterial infections. Those with low levels were also more likely to give birth to small babies. The scientists noted that it’s common for pregnant women to have low levels of vitamin D, especially vegetarians, dark-skinned ethnic minorities, and women who get limited exposure to the sun. (That’s what you get for trying to be conscientious with the sunblock, right?)

But taking vitamin D supplements, says another report, won’t increase your baby’s bone density. And yet another study showed that babies of women who took vitamin D supplements while pregnant were more likely to develop food allergies during the first two years of life. So the safest course of action might be to get your vitamin D the natural way–via sunshine. Experts today say scientists may have gone overboard in urging people to stay out of the sun to avoid skin cancer. Ten minutes a day of exposure is enough for fair-skinned folks to manufacture sufficient D in summertime. In northern climes like ours, up your D count in winter by eating fatty fish.

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