Vitamin D: The Wonder Vitamin That May Help Me Conceive
Could upping my intake really help me conceive?
The study found that women with a higher vitamin D level in their serum and follicular fluid (the fluid in a developing ovarian follicle) are "significantly more likely to achieve clinical pregnancy" following an IVF-embryo transfer.
Lubna Pal, MBBS, an author of the study and director of the program for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) at the Yale Fertility Center, cautions that we don't have enough data to definitively support the connection. However, she theorizes that Vitamin D affects the endometrium (the lining of the uterus), and research suggests that it may stimulate suppressor Th2 cells, which help the body maintain a pregnancy.
The potential correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and failed IVF cycles is a revelation that merits further study, and Dr. Pal says this may help explain why ethnic minorities have lower success rates in IVF. In particular, African American patients were found to have lower IVF success rates, and likewise, they were found to have lower levels of vitamin D. This particular deficiency is a well-known phenomenon, since people with darker skin who live far from the equator are particularly at risk for Vitamin D deficiency.
In the meantime, Dr. Pal warned that women of color aren't the only ones that need to have their Vitamin D levels checked. According to her, 70-80% of the population are deficient in Vitamin D (which is a shame because there are so many non-skeletal benefits to the vitamin only now being discovered). She advises women to get plenty of Vitamin D when trying to conceive, and once they do conceive, use vitamin D to avert preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
Next Page: The magic amount [ pagebreak ]
So how much should you be getting?
As of yet, there is no definitive agreement about how much Vitamin D supplementation children or adults should take, as discussed recently by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Right now, the current recommendation, set in 1997, is 200 IU, or the amount in four ounces of salmon. However, the Institute of Medicine is currently evaluating how much vitamin D we really need. "Vitamin D is a safely tolerated supplement," Dr. Pal said. "What you get in a multivitamin is not enough."
Even a prenatal vitamin may not be providing enough vitamin D, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), which published a report that echoes Dr. Pal's concern. The measly 400 IUs in the typical vitamin may not be enough, even for a child.
It seems that taking at least 2,000 IUs of vitamin D daily may be the best course of action. However, according to Dr. Pal, some people who were suffering from a deficiency must take much more before their blood levels show adequate amounts. Both Dr. Pal and the AJCN cite studies where people were given 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D daily with no deleterious effect.
In fact, the AJCN's report mentions that if a white person were to go to the beach for the day in the summer, they would receive about 50,000 IUs of vitamin D—a stark contrast with those 400 IUs in average prenatals. But keep in mind that you may not be getting enough vitamin D, even if you live in a sunny place. "UVB doesn't come through pollution," she said. "You must take latitude, longitude and pollution into account" as you estimate how much quality sunshine you are receiving.
As for me, I plan to follow Dr. Pal's advice and have a blood test so I know my vitamin D levels before I take high doses of supplements.
At my age, I don't have a lot of cycles to waste while contemplating a final pregnancy. So if I can optimize the vitamin D levels in my follicular fluid—and enjoy some additional benefits of proper supplementation—all the better.