Pregnancy's Star Nutrient

Find out why Vitamin D is emerging as surprisingly important prenatal nutrient.


Vitamin D is emerging as a surprisingly important prenatal nutrient, say the authors of a new study that compared babies' birth weights with the amount of vitamin D-fortified milk their mothers drank during pregnancy. Moms-to-be who consumed little milk--under a cup a day gave birth to infants who weighed less than those born to mothers who drank more. For every extra cup consumed daily, the baby's birth weight increased by 1.4 ounces. While milk contains many nutrients, including protein, calcium and riboflavin, vitamin D is thought to be the key to birth weight, according to study co-author Kristine G. Koski, Ph.D., director of the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University in Montreal.

Some expectant mothers spurn milk because they fear it will cause them to gain too much weight or because they're lactose-intolerant. But women can increase their vitamin D intake in other ways, such as by getting adequate sun exposure, which generates production of the vitamin in the body, says Koski. If you dislike milk, she adds, "choose other vitamin D-rich foods, such as fortified soymilk, salmon or other fatty fishes, or take vitamin D supplements." Talk to your doctor about what dosage is safe.