Vitamin D receptors have many roles in addition to helping with bone formation, helping immune strength is lesser known and the receptors also play an important role in prenatal and fetal health and development. Deficiency of vitamin D prenatally may be involved in the risk of preeclampsia occurring during the pregnancy as the vitamin D receptor helps promote secretion of prenatal hormones and reduce inflammatory cytokines that may stimulate preeclampsia and premature labor.

  • Read more: Relationship Between Vitamin D During Perinatal Development and Health, Jovana Kaludjerovic, MSc; Reinhold Vieth, PhD, J Midwifery Womens Health. 2010;55(6):550-560. [http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/733437_3]
  • Citation from the linked article: 15] Bodnar LM, Catov JM, Simhan HN, Holick MF, Powers RW, Roberts JM. Maternal vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of preeclampsia. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92:3517–22. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17535985]
  • *Vitamin D levels were measured early in the pregnancy and then the women were followed until delivery. Lower levels of vitamin D early in pregnancy was more associated with preeclampsia developing later during the pregnancy. Infants born to mothers who had preeclampsia during the pregnancy were also more likely to have a low vitamin D level at birth. Autism risk has been associated with low vitamin D levels in infants and mothers of infants who develop autism. Which is discussed in other posts on this site.

Vitamin D is readily available in fortified milk and milk substitutes. It is also added to some yogurts and other dairy foods but it necessary to read the label. The amounts of vitamin D added to milk used to make yogurt or cheese is not regulated in the same way as the vitamin fortification of liquid milk sold for drinking. Vitamin D is also added to many breakfast cereals and protein rich meal replacement bars. It is naturally found in seafood and sardines in significant amounts, and a smaller amount is available in the egg yolk portion of eggs, and in mushrooms. A typical one-a-day vitamin or prenatal vitamin would also contain vitamin D. And our bodies can produce vitamin D from stored cholesterol when we get sunshine, about 15 to 30 minutes of sunshine on the face, upper arms and chest is adequate during summer months.

Excessive levels of active hormone D can cause negative health symptoms but the average person has enzymes that break down excess active hormone. A protein deficiency may also be a risk for low vitamin D because a carrier protein transports the inactive vitamin form and keeps it in the inactive state. Free, loose vitamin D is quickly activated to the hormone form of the molecule – which is actually a seco-steroid similar to cholesterol and other steroid hormones rather than being a typical essential “vitamin” that can not be formed in the body at all.

Preeclampsia is also associated with the presence of more fetal cells, microchimerism, in the mother than for women who had a pregnancy without preeclampsia. [http://sm.stanford.edu/archive/stanmed/2009fall/article1.html]

The vitamin D receptor is involved in the immune system’s ability to suppress allergic responses to foreign material – such as a fetus potentially. The placenta is not able to prevent all maternal or fetal cells from crossing and infants can have maternal cell DNA and mothers may have left over fetal cell DNA. The leftover fetal cells may have protective benefits as stem cells but they may also be a risk for autoimmune conditions such as Grave’s disease which causes a type of hyperthyroidism but can also cause other symptoms. Adequate vitamin D might be helpful throughout life for protecting against overactive allergic responses of the white blood cell portion of the immune system.

/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and  the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./