Vitamin D in pregnancy and lactation: maternal, fetal, and neonatal outcomes from human and animal studies

Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Aug;88(2):520S-528S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/88.2.520S.


During pregnancy and lactation, mothers require significant amounts of calcium to pass on to the developing fetus and suckling neonate, respectively. Given the dependence of adult calcium concentrations and bone metabolism on vitamin D, one might anticipate that vitamin D sufficiency would be even more critical during pregnancy and lactation. However, maternal adaptations during pregnancy and lactation and fetal adaptations provide the necessary calcium relatively independently of vitamin D status. It is the vitamin D-deficient or insufficient neonate who is at risk of problems, including hypocalcemia and rickets. Due to poor penetrance of vitamin D and 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] into milk, exclusively breastfed infants are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency than are formula-fed infants. Dosing recommendations for women during pregnancy and lactation might be best directed toward ensuring that the neonate is vitamin D-sufficient and that this sufficiency is maintained during infancy and beyond. A dose of vitamin D that provides 25(OH)D sufficiency in the mother during pregnancy should provide normal cord blood concentrations of 25(OH)D. Research has shown that during lactation, supplements administered directly to the infant can easily achieve vitamin D sufficiency; the mother needs much higher doses (100 mug or 4000 IU per day) to achieve adult-normal 25(OH)D concentrations in her exclusively breastfed infant. In addition, the relation (if any) of vitamin D insufficiency in the fetus or neonate to long-term nonskeletal outcomes such as type 1 diabetes and other chronic diseases needs to be investigated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / metabolism
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactation / physiology*
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prenatal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D / metabolism
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / prevention & control


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium