Vitamin D has spent a lot of time in the spotlight recently, and with good reason. More and more research is uncovering the absolutely critical roles it plays in maintaining optimal health. Now researchers have discovered that pregnant women who are low in this nutrient are at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common in pregnant women; it’s thought to affect between 26 and 98 percent of all pregnancies. Vitamin D is present in most nutritional supplements targeted at pregnant women, but there is nowhere near enough in the supplement to correct a deficiency. For most of the year, the majority of people just don’t receive enough healthy sun exposure to provide sufficient vitamin D.

We have known for some time that people who are vitamin D deficient are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and they even find losing weight more difficult. Interestingly vitamin D deficiency also raises the risk of insulin resistance (syndrome X). This is where insulin no longer works as well at controlling blood sugar. Being insulin resistant during pregnancy can cause the blood sugar to creep up high enough for gestational diabetes to develop. This can be a problem because excess blood sugar can harm the developing fetus. High blood sugar can also cause the mum to experience excessive fatigue and weight gain during the pregnancy.

Every woman considering falling pregnant should have a blood test for vitamin D. You may be surprised to see how low your level really is. Very few foods contain much vitamin D; therefore sensible sun exposure and a nutritional supplement are the best ways to raise your level.

Reference: Mutlu N, Esra H, Begum A, et al. Relation of maternal vitamin D status with gestational diabetes mellitus and perinatal outcome. Afr Health Sci. 2015;15(2):523-31.