Vitamin D increases chance of natural birth

Vitamin D increases the chance of natural birth and makes intervention during delivery less likely, research suggests

  • Two-thirds of those given supplement had a spontaneous vaginal delivery
  • They were less likely to need interventions such as forceps during childbirth

Pregnant women who take vitamin D are more likely to have a ‘natural’ delivery, a study suggests.

Two-thirds of those who were given the supplement went on to have a spontaneous vaginal delivery compared with just over half those who did not.

They were less likely to need interventions such as forceps during childbirth and suffered less blood loss after delivery.

But the supplements had little impact on the numbers needing emergency caesareans, according to the findings published in the Journal of Public Health.

Doctors believe the ‘sunshine pill’ could help strengthen muscles and contractions during labour, aiding natural delivery.

Pregnant women who take vitamin D are more likely to have a ‘natural’ delivery, a study suggests (file image of a woman taking vitamin d supplements)

The NHS already recommends that women take vitamin D supplements in pregnancy because it helps to develop the baby’s bones, teeth, kidneys, heart and nervous system.

But these findings also suggest it could help a natural delivery go more smoothly as well.

In the latest trial, 965 women at hospitals in Southampton, Oxford and Sheffield who were not already taking the vitamin were recruited around the time of their first scan at 12 weeks gestation.

They were randomly allocated either to take an extra 1,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day during their pregnancy or a placebo.

The researchers followed up the women during their pregnancy and delivery.

Analysis showed 66 per cent of those who took extra vitamin D had a spontaneous vaginal delivery compared with 58 per cent in the placebo group.

Fewer women from the vitamin D group had an assisted delivery compared with the placebo group – 13 per cent against 19 per cent.

READ MORE: Vitamin D supplements don’t work if you’re too fat, study warns

However, the number of women in each group needing a caesarean to deliver their baby was similar at 21 per cent for those taking vitamin D and 23 per cent for those who were not.

Dr Rebecca Moon, of the National Institute for Health and Care Research Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, who led the analysis, said: ‘Most women want to have a ‘natural delivery’ of their baby. 

Our work suggests that taking extra vitamin D during their pregnancy might help them to achieve this.

‘The women taking the extra vitamin D also had less blood loss after delivery, highlighting why this is so important.

‘Further evidence is now needed to more thoroughly inform public health policy and clinical practice.’

Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body – these are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. 

Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to summer sunlight but it can also be found in foods including oily fish, eggs and red meat.

Women are advised not to take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day while pregnant as it could be harmful.

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