Those who have suffered a miscarriage — regardless of how early they were in their pregnancy — know exactly how devastating the experience can be. Suddenly, all of your hopes and plans for that would-be child are crushed. Done. And if you're like me, subsequent pregnancies are riddled with anxiety. Was it something I did or didn't do? Is there anything I could be doing to prevent this from happening again? What if it does happen again. Well, one new finding could help put the minds of women at ease. As it turns out, vitamin D is linked to miscarriage risk in women with prior pregnancy loss, according to a new study.
Miscarriage — the loss of pregnancy within the first 20 weeks — happens more than many people might think, Parents reported. "We estimate that about 30 to 40 percent of all conceptions result in a pregnancy loss," Dr. Helain Landy, professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgetown University Hospital, told Parents. "This is because many women miscarry before they know they're pregnant, or before it has been confirmed by a health-care provider." When you think about how many families miscarriage effects every single day, it's no wonder researchers continue to search for potential health links.
A new study published in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology found that women who don't receive enough vitamin D not only take longer to get pregnant, but their risk of miscarriage may actually be elevated, the Independent reported. So here's the lowdown: For this study — which included a sample of 1,200 women who had previously experienced a pregnancy loss and hoped to conceive again — researchers looked at vitamin D levels in participants' blood before pregnancy and eight weeks after. “Our findings suggest that vitamin D may play a protective role in pregnancy,” said Dr Sunni Mumford, the study's principal investigator, according to a news release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH.)
Women with sufficient vitamin D levels prior to conception were actually 10 percent more likely to get pregnant and 15 percent more likely to have a live birth, according to the NIH news release. Additionally, with each 10 nanogram per milliliter increase in vitamin D pre-conception, there was a 12-percent lower risk of pregnancy loss. It's important to note the results of this study don't prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship; it merely suggests a link. More research is still needed to establish whether giving vitamin D supplements to women who are at risk for pregnancy loss would increase their odds for pregnancy and live birth.
Of course, the idea that vitamin D levels are linked to fertility isn't exactly, the Independent reported. Earlier studies suggested that higher levels of this essential nutrient are also helpful for women going through in vitro fertilization (IVF.) (For these studies, IVF success rates improved with exposure to sunnier weather.) Granted, pregnant women are already recommended to take supplements with vitamin D. The fact that pre-pregnancy levels may have an impact is significant, though, because women might not even realize they're deficient at that point.
I experienced a miscarriage between my first and second children, likely due to a flare-up of a chronic health condition at the time. Although I haven't suffered a loss since then, I felt like I couldn't fully enjoy each pregnancy afterward — because I was acutely aware that it could all end again without warning. Interestingly, I've been taking a calcium/vitamin D supplement on top of a regular prenatal vitamin for quite some time now. I can't help but wonder if this has contributed to my lack of subsequent miscarriages. Or if I've just been extremely blessed.
Either way, this new research seems like a glimmer of hope for families trying to conceive after a loss. Because if something as simple as taking additional vitamin D pre-conception can make a difference, you can bet women will do whatever it takes to increase their chances of a healthy pregnancy.