If you are a woman who is trying to conceive (TTC), the accumulating data suggesting a relationship between vitamin D and your fertility may be of great interest to you. That’s what we are going to explore more in this article.
Equally known as the “sunshine vitamin“, vitamin D is a hormone produced in your skin from exposure to sunlight, and can also be obtained through food and nutritional supplements. You can learn about other vitamins here.
When your body doesn’t get enough vitamin, either from sunlight or from what you eat, it is known as a deficiency (level < 30 ng/mL) or an insufficiency (level between 20 to 30 ng/mL) in Vitamin D.
An estimated 1 billion people worldwide have vitamin D deficiency, while 50% of the population has vitamin D insufficiency.
Low levels of this vitamin are associated with rickets in children, and osteoporosis in adults.
Why is Vitamin D important?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin used by the body to ensure normal bone health by increasing the absorption and usage of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate.
Also, Vitamin D plays a role in your nervous system, musculoskeletal system and immune system.
In addition to that, adequate levels of vitamin D may also be associated with the decrease in mortality rates of breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.
Moreover, vitamin D may also protect against several chronic conditions, including bone loss, depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and multiple sclerosis.
WRAPPING IT UP:
• Vitamin D plays a role in your bone health, your nervous system, your musculoskeletal system and your immune system.
• It may also be involved in the reduction of cancer mortality rates and in the protection against some chronic diseases.
Vitamin D Deficiency: Causes, Signs and Symptoms
People can develop vitamin D deficiency due to the following risk factors:
- Having Obesity or Overweight. Fat cells keep vitamin D isolated so that it’s not released;
- Insufficient recommended dietary intakes such as not consuming enough fatty fish or fortified dairy foods over time;
- Limited skin exposure to sunlight as a result of living, staying or working far from the equator as well as in regions/places with very limited sunlight;
- The inability of the kidneys or liver to help convert the inactive form of vitamin D to its active form;
- Insufficient absorption of vitamin D from the digestive tract caused by health conditions such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease;
- Using some medical drugs such as statins or steroids that affect vitamin D metabolism.
Signs and Symptoms
Some signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in adults might include:
- Bone pains;
- Muscle weakness, muscle aches or muscle cramps;
- Mood changes or swings such as depression.
However, at times, you may have no signs or symptoms…
WRAPPING IT UP:
• When intakes of vitamin D are inadequate, it may lead to a deficiency or insufficiency in vit D.
• Among mentioned examples, some causes of Vitamin D deficiency include: Obesity, limited exposure to sunlight, medical conditions, medications, etc. Some signs and symptoms include bone pains, mood swings, etc.
How Does Vitamin D Deficiency Affect Women’s Health?
Studies suggest that low vitamin D status in women is associated with impaired fertility, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Some other effects of vitamin D deficiency on women’s health include:
Vitamin D deficiency and pregnancy
The passage through the placenta of the active form of maternal vitamin D is the only source of Vit D in the developing fetus.
Therefore, infants are entirely dependent on their mothers for their Vit D status.
This implies that infants born to Vit D-deficient mothers will be Vit D deficient, and hence are exposed to rickets.
In pregnant women, low vitamin D levels are linked to preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, bacterial vaginosis and preterm birth.
Vitamin D deficiency and women with obesity
Women including pregnant women, with a BMI >30, are at increased risk of Vit D deficiency.
Fat cells keep vitamin D isolated so that it’s not released into body circulation.
The issue may be further compounded by limited sunlight exposure and calorically rich but nutrient-poor diets such that multiple nutrients may be deficient, affecting both the mother and her developing fetus.
WRAPPING IT UP:
Vitamin D deficiency may affect women’s health during pregnancy and through the development of medical conditions such as endometriosis.
What is the Link between Vitamin D and Female Fertility?
For women trying to conceive (TTC), adequate levels of vitamin D appear to be linked to improved fertility, and a healthy pregnancy…
However, results from studies on vitamin D and natural fertility, including success during fertility treatment, are mixed!
Some studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation improves success rates in both in vitro fertilization (IVF) as well as the transfer of frozen donor egg embryos. Other studies have not demonstrated that connection.
Although the data for vitamin D and fertility is not conclusive, several studies have found that vitamin D blood levels of 30 ng/mL or higher are associated with higher pregnancy rates…
- Two studies found that among populations of mostly Caucasian and non-Hispanic white women, those with a normal vitamin D level were four times more likely to get pregnant through IVF compared to those who had a low vitamin D level.
- Another study found that donor egg recipients with a normal vitamin D level had higher pregnancy rates than those with a low vitamin D level.
Moreover, another study investigated whether vitamin D blood levels are associated with live birth rates in women undergoing fertility treatments. It found that women with a level greater than 30 ng/mL had higher live birth rates than women with lower vitamin D levels.
WRAPPING IT UP:
Mixed but promising results are coming from studies on vitamin D and natural fertility, including success during fertility treatment.
How Can You Improve Your Vitamin D Intake?
Here are 03 ways that may help you to improve your levels of vitamin D:
Take your nutritional supplements: Nutritional supplements are the go-to treatment for vitamin D deficiency. Ask your doctor for dosage recommendations, before buying.
Include more vitamin D-rich foods in your diet like: Cod liver oil, salmon and sardines, fortified milk, egg, fortified yoghurt, mushrooms, fortified soy products, oysters, and fortified cereals.
Get more sunlight: It is also recommended to go outdoors more often, to increase the skin production of Vit D under exposure to sunlight.
WRAPPING IT UP:
03 ways to improve your vitamin D levels: sunlight exposure, nutritional supplementation, and adequate food intake.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that can be obtained through skin production, foods and nutritional supplementation.
More and more accumulating data shows that insufficient or inadequate intakes of Vitamin D may have a negative impact on your fertility.
If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteomalacia, get in touch with your Nutritionist for a personnalized diet plan.
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Ozkan S, Jindal S, Greenseid K, et al. Replete vitamin D stores predict reproductive success following in vitro fertilization. Fertil Steril. 2010;94(4):1314-1319. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.05.019
Khadilkar, S.S. The Emerging Role of Vitamin D3 in Women’s Health. J Obstet Gynecol India 63, 147–150 (2013).
Grundmann, M., von Versen-Höynck, F. Vitamin D – roles in women’s reproductive health?. Reprod Biol Endocrinol 9, 146 (2011).
Pilz S, Zittermann A, Obeid R, et al. The Role of Vitamin D in Fertility and during Pregnancy and Lactation: A Review of Clinical Data. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(10):2241. Published 2018 Oct 12. doi:10.3390/ijerph15102241
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