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How do vitamin D levels affect miscarriage risk?

A recent study found that among women who have had a previous pregnancy loss, vitamin D levels affected their likelihood of conceiving and carrying a child to term.

Miscarriages are spontaneous pregnancy losses. It is estimated that 15-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, 80% of which occur in the first trimester2.  There is research suggesting that vitamin D deficiency can increase miscarriage risk.

In a recent study published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, researchers from the National Institute for Health (NIH) investigated what might be considered “sufficient” vitamin D to reduce miscarriage risk.

They looked at data on 1191 women from across the United States (between the ages of 18-40) who had had one or two previous miscarriages. They collected data on their serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels (taken before pregnancy and again at eight weeks), time to pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and live births between 2007 and 2011.  They also collected additional demographic and lifestyle data from a questionnaire.

They defined sufficient vitamin D as having serum concentrations equal to, or greater than 75 nmol/L.  Of the women in the study, they found that 53% had serum vitamin D levels below 30 nmol/L, which was low enough to be considered vitamin D insufficient. Additionally, women with adequate vitamin D levels were 10% more likely to conceive and 15% more likely to have a live birth than women whose vitamin D levels were low before conception and during the first eight weeks of their pregnancy.

While the findings reported in this study suggest that vitamin D may play a role in promoting and sustaining a pregnancy, this study does not prove that vitamin D insufficiency prevents conception or causes miscarriages. Further research is required to determine the efficacy of vitamin D supplementation for reducing miscarriage risk as well as optimal vitamin D levels for healthy reproductive outcomes.

Written by Debra A. Kellen, PhD

References:

(1) Mumford, S. L., Garbose, R. A., Kim, K., Kissell, K., Kuhr, D. L., Omosigho, U. R., … & Plowden, T. C. (2018). Association of preconception serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations with livebirth and pregnancy loss: a prospective cohort study. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S2213-8587(18)30153-0
(2) Tovey, A. & Cannell, JJ. The relationship between vitamin D and miscarriages. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, May 30, 2017.

Debra Kellen PhD
Debra Kellen PhD
With undergraduate degrees in Neuroscience and Education from the University of Toronto, Debra began her career as a teacher. Nine years later, when she moved to Michigan, Debra earned a Ph.D. in Education Policy from the University of Michigan. Today, Debra organizes conferences and conducts workshops to provide training and support for educators and medical professionals on effective coaching, staff recruitment and training, and creating a culture of continuous improvement. She loves to read and enjoys the challenge of translating medical research into informative, easy-to-read articles. Debra spends her free time with her family, travelling, wandering through art fairs, and canoeing on the Huron River.
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