The sunshine vitamin

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If you are pregnant in Chicago, one thing is certain: getting enough vitamin D through sun exposure will prove to be a challenge sometime during your pregnancy.

You probably already take a prenatal supplement as insurance against the whims of your dietary intake and the weather. But even if you do, your consumption of vitamin D may still fall short of what you need. Results from a new study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health Sciences reveal just how important it is to get enough. Researchers have found that vitamin D deficiency early in pregnancy is associated with a five-fold increased risk of preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia affects up to 7 percent of first pregnancies and is the primary cause of premature deliveries worldwide. The author of the new study, researcher Lisa Bodnar, says,"Women who developed preeclampsia had vitamin D concentrations that were significantly lower early in pregnancy compared to women whose pregnancies were normal.”

Since sunshine is a significant source of vitamin D, it is not surprising that women in northern latitudes are commonly deficient. Dr. Richard Silver, professor and chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, believes that vitamin D plays a central role in staying healthy."Women should be taking a multi-vitamin prior to conception and switch to a prenatal supplement during pregnancy.”

However, Silver does not believe that the results of this study are sufficient proof that additional vitamin D supplementation will prevent preeclampsia. What is a Chicagoland woman to do? Take your vitamins, search for the sun whenever you can and make up for those cloudy days by including good sources of vitamin D in your diet.

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