Babies are at risk of dying of rickets, a severe vitamin D deficiency disease previously thought to have been eradicated decades ago, because mothers and pregnant women are not being advised of the need for vitamin D supplements.
Not so many years ago, most doctors were essentially of the opinion that a so-called “healthy diet” was all a pregnant woman needed to ensure a healthy baby. Today, however, there is increasing scientific evidence that pregnancy increases a woman’s need for certain nutrients and that an ordinary diet alone may not be enough to supply them in sufficient quantities. Nevertheless, and as this news story demonstrates, many pregnant women remain unaware of this.
It is an inevitable fact that babies born to nutrient-deficient mothers inherit nutrient deficiencies themselves. This is clearly important as, among other things, research shows maternal vitamin D deficiency may cause cognitive and physical development impairment in newborns. In the UK, fueled also by other contributory factors such as a lack of sun exposure and overuse of sunscreen, there has been concern for some years now that many children are growing up with low levels of vitamin D. As a result, British doctors are regularly seeing cases of rickets.
It is also well known that folic acid deficiency in a pregnant woman leads to serious neural tube defects in the fetus and that this may result in miscarriage. As a neural tube defect can occur even before a woman is aware she is pregnant, any woman of childbearing age should take at least 400 mg of folic acid daily – regardless of whether she is pregnant or not.