The Role Of Vitamin D In Reproductive Health, From A Functional MD*
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.
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.*
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.*
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.
Alejandra Carrasco, M.D., is an integrative and functional medicine physician, best-selling author of Bloom, and founder of Nourish Medicine, a root-cause resolution integrative and functional medicine practice in Austin, Texas. She received her medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center. Alex is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine as well as the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine. She is also a certified practitioner by the Institute of Functional Medicine and has spent the last decade studying nutrition, integrative, preventive, and functional medicine.