Importance of vitamin D during the antenatal period for maternal well-being
Vitamin D deficiency is widely recognised as a major public health issue around the world; and is essential for optimal development and strengthening of the musculoskeletal system including the prevention of conditions such as osteoporosis, osteopenia and rickets. The association between vitamin D and childhood rickets has led to the fortification of food sources and consequently the eradication of the rickets disease. Vitamin D levels are of particular importance for pregnant women, especially for the development of the bone and muscle development of the fetus. In the last decade there has been a substantial increase in the incidence of vitamin D deficiency and the re-emergence of the childhood rickets disease. It is vital that vitamin D levels are at optimal levels during pregnancy as maternal calcium demands increase significantly to meet the demands of the developing fetus, especially in the third trimester.
The best source of vitamin D is exposure to natural sunlight and 90% of vitamin D is derived from sunlight with 10% derived from food and plant sources (Paxton et al, 2013; Cannell, 2019). Approximately 1 in 5 people have low vitamin D levels (defined as serum levels below 25 nmol/L) in the UK. Recent statistics reveal that vitamin D deficiency affects the population as follows: 19% aged 4–10 years old, 37% 11–18 years old, 29% 19–64 years old, and 27% for people aged 65 years and older (National Diet and Nutrition Survey, 2019). There is sufficient research to support a correlation between certain risk factors and vitamin D deficiency including lack of exposure to sunlight, darker skin pigmentation, increased body mass index and certain ethnic groups which involves the wearing of cultural garments (Paxton et al, 2013; Fallon et al, 2020).
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