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The Role Of Vitamin D In Reproductive Health, From A Functional MD*

Photo by Susana Ramírez
Last updated on November 9, 2021

As a functional medicine doctor, I recommend my patients get their vitamin D levels checked as early in their adult lives as possible. Why? Because vitamin D levels can impact nearly every single bodily function, including conception (for men and women) and pregnancy.* While the research on the relationship between vitamin D and reproductive health is still very much ongoing, here's a look at what we know so far.

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Vitamin D and fertility.

The link between vitamin D and reproductive health in other mammals is a long-established one. And though more research in humans is needed, the science suggests this connection holds true. In fact, vitamin D deficiency (which impacts about 29% of Americans1) may impact fertility outcomes in women2. There is also a link between vitamin D status and sperm quality in men3.*

Given what we know about how vitamin D levels affect our immunity, bones, and overall health, I wager we’ll be seeing more emerging research on its relationship to more "fringe" areas like fertility down the line.* For now, it seems prudent for both men and women to get serious about maintaining optimal vitamin D levels to promote their reproductive health and fertility.*

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Vitamin D and pregnancy.

While proper vitamin D levels are always beneficial, they're especially important during pregnancy and in the postpartum period. (Other key nutrients, like DHA, calcium, folate, and choline can be helpful during pregnancy, too.)*

The science shows us that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy influences a number of areas of a mother-to-be's health, including iron status4, blood sugar regulation4, blood pressure4, and vaginal bacterial balance5.* A variety of studies have also connected vitamin D status to the baby's wellbeing, particularly related to birth weight, healthy teeth, and cognition6, amongst other things.*

The good news? Studies also show you can support your baby's respiratory health7 by increasing your intake of vitamin D.*

Since the nutrient also plays a key role in the nutritional quality of your breast milk, I tend to recommend that breastfeeding mothers supplement with higher amounts of vitamin D, often 5,000 IU per day and up.* Talk to your doctor or health care practitioner about what’s best for you—especially if you're interested in supplementing and would be supplementing for two.

Vitamin D and thyroid health.

The thyroid is one of the most powerful glands in your body, regulating everything from metabolism and body temperature to hormonal balance and sleep patterns. It’s also a key player in fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum recovery. Therefore, since vitamin D seems to play a role in thyroid health8, I believe that maintaining optimal vitamin D status is a simple and powerful way to support your thyroid, and, ultimately, your reproductive health.*

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The takeaway.

Whether or not you're interested in conceiving right now, safeguarding your reproductive health is a must for promoting your overall wellbeing. Since vitamin D plays what seems to be an important role in that, I recommend checking on your vitamin D levels by asking your healthcare provider for a serum total 25-hydroxyvitamin D test—which is also known as the 25(OH)D test. If your levels are low, you'll want to consider supplementing with a quality vitamin D3 supplement (D3 is the body's preferred form) as recommended by your doctor or healthcare practitioner and adding more vitamin D-rich foods to your diet.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.