The Role Of Vitamin D In Reproductive Health: An Overview
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 they can impact nearly every single bodily function, including conception (for men and women) and pregnancy. While the research on how vitamin D can affect reproductive health is still very much ongoing, here's a look at what we know so far.
Vitamin D and fertility.
It’s been shown that vitamin D supplementation might increase a couple's chances of conceiving when using IVF, and new research suggests vitamin D supplementation may increase fertility and sperm count in men.*
Given what we know about how vitamin D levels affect your immunity, inflammatory levels, and overall health, I wager we’ll be seeing more research on its relationship to fertility down the line. For now, it seems prudent for men to get serious about their vitamin D levels to enhance their chances of a speedy conception.
Vitamin D and pregnancy.
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Research shows that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy increases your risk of anemia, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, bacterial vaginosis, and unplanned caesarean birth. A variety of studies have shown suboptimal vitamin D levels can also affect an unborn child’s health and lead to lower birth weight, tooth enamel defects, lowered cognitive function, or increased risk of obesity.*
The good news? Studies also show you can reduce your baby's risk of asthma by 40% by increasing your intake of vitamin D.* The nutrient also plays a key role in the nutritional quality of your breast milk. Therefore, if you’re supplementing for two, I tend to recommend a higher-dose supplementation for breastfeeding mothers, often 5,000 IUs daily and up. Talk to your doctor or health care practitioner about what’s best for you.
Vitamin D and hormone 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, if you want to increase your chances of a healthy conception, pregnancy, and postpartum period, protecting your thyroid is key too—and vitamin D does seem to play a role in thyroid health.*
Whether or not you're trying to get pregnant, I'd recommend checking on your vitamin D levels using a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, also known as the 25-OH D test. If your levels are low, you'll want to consider supplementing with a vitamin D3 supplement, as recommended by your doctor or health care practitioner, and adding more vitamin D-rich foods to your diet.