Another study suggests higher levels of vitamin D during pregnancy may play an important role in a baby's future health. In the latest study, Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to poorer mental and motor skills in babies.
Researchers in Spain measured the level of vitamin D in the blood of almost 2,000 women in their first or second trimester of pregnancy and evaluated the mental and motor abilities of their babies at about 14 months of age. The investigators found that children of vitamin D deficient mothers scored lower than those whose mothers had adequate levels of the vitamin.
"These differences in the mental and psychomotor development scores do not likely make any difference at the individual level, but might have an important impact at the population level," said study lead author Dr. Eva Morales, a medical epidemiologist in the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona.
One concern is that lower scores in motor and mental tests could lead to lower IQs.
Previous studies have linked a deficiency in vitamin D during pregnancy to babies born with a greater risk for developing language problems, higher body fat, bone weakness, lung infections and schizophrenia.
Vitamin D deficiency in moms-to-be has also been associated with a higher risk for developing preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is when a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy. It is rarely fatal, but can lead to premature births.
How much vitamin D should a pregnant woman be getting? There's not a clear-cut answer.
The Institute of Medicine, an independent U.S. group that advises the public, recommends pregnant women get 600 international units (IU) a day of vitamin D and no more than 4,000 IU/day. However, the Endocrine Society says that 600 units does not prevent deficiency and that at least 1,500 to 2,000 units a day may be required.
More evidence that the flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women has been released. A new study shows that there is no link between the flu vaccine and the risk of serious birth defects. That's the number one concern that mothers-to-be have when considering getting a flu shot.
The study noted that of nearly 9,000 pregnant women who got the flu shot, about 2 percent had a baby with a major birth defect, such as a malformation in the heart or a cleft lip. That was the same as 77,000 pregnant women who did not get the shot.
Researchers also found that women who got vaccinated were less likely to suffer a stillbirth. Point 3 % did not experience a stillbirth versus point 6 % of un-vaccinated women. Their newborns also had a lower death rate: point two percent died soon after birth, compared with point four percent of babies born to unvaccinated moms.
It's not certain that the flu shot had anything to do with the lower stillbirth, but there may be a link says Dr. Jeanne S. Sheffield, the lead researcher on the work. The flu shot may have prevented a more serious case of the flu. Plus, these findings suggest that the flu shot is at least safe, and possibly has a benefit against stillbirth.
Despite recommendations to get the flu shot, most pregnant women do not. In the U.S., only between 10 percent and one-quarter of women have been vaccinated each flu season over the last couple decades, Sheffield's team notes.
Sheffield noted that "it's amazing" how many women are unaware that the flu itself is considered a risk during pregnancy.
"The flu is a problem in pregnancy," she said. "But we have a vaccine to prevent it. And it's considered safe and effective in any trimester."
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published last year found "no unusual patterns" of pregnancy complications or newborn health problems among U.S. women who received the flu shot between 1990 and 2009.
The new study was
Stay healthy during and after your pregnancy.
The potentially deadly disease striking healthy pregnant women.