Vitamin D Deficiency Boosts C-Section Risk
Low Levels of Vitamin D in Pregnant Women May Increase Chances of C-Sections
Dec. 23, 2008 -- Vitamin D deficiency is common in pregnant women, and it may lead
to an increased risk for cesarean delivery, early research suggests.
Vitamin D researcher Michael Holick, MD, PhD, and colleagues from the Boston
Medical Center report that women in their study who were severely vitamin D
deficient during childbirth were about four
times more likely to deliver by cesarean section as women with
higher vitamin D levels.
In a separate analysis, the research team found that a little more than one
in three women (36%) were vitamin D deficient and slightly less than one in
four (23%) were severely deficient when they gave birth.
"We are just beginning to recognize that a large percentage of pregnant
women are vitamin D deficient and that being on a prenatal vitamin is totally
inadequate to bring levels up to where they need to be," Holick tells
Holick believes that along with a prenatal vitamin, which typically contains
about 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D, pregnant women should take an
additional 1,000 IU of the vitamin.
Not So Fast, Expert Says
But maternal-fetal medicine specialist Carl P. Weiner, MD, says more
research is needed before such a recommendation would be justified. Weiner is
chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kansas Medical
"This is an interesting study, but very preliminary, and it should not
be seen as the basis for a change in clinical practice," Weiner tells
WebMD. "We really can't say if there is a downside or an upside to
additional vitamin D."
Just 43 (17%) of the 253 women in the study had cesarean deliveries.
Holick, study co-author Anne Merewood, MPH, and colleagues accessed maternal
and infant vitamin D levels, as
measured by serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
Although there is no consensus on optimal levels of serum vitamin D, Holick
says a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of 15 nanograms (ng) per milliliter or
below indicates severe vitamin D insufficiency.
A total of 28% of the women in the study had serum vitamin D levels of 15 ng
per milliliter or below.
After controlling for maternal risk factors for cesarean delivery, including
age, race, and insurance status, the researchers found that women with severe
vitamin D deficiencies were four times more likely to have cesarean deliveries
as women with higher serum vitamin D levels.
The research appears in the latest online issue of the Journal of
Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Vitamin D and C-section
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to muscle weakness and poor muscle
Merewood tells WebMD that this might explain why women with insufficient
vitamin D stores would be more likely to require C-sections.
"That is really just a theory at this point," she says. "We
definitely haven't identified a causal pathway."