That Good D
In 2015 after the birth of my daughter who was my third child I found the recovery to be incredibly difficult, more so than my previous babies. Putting in down to simply being older I brushed the feeling off. It was easy to put the symptoms down to just having a new baby as I was exhausted, had the most unbearable lower back pain, my hair was coming out in clumps and I felt really low. . However when my little girl turned one I still felt unwell and I could feel the effects dramatically on my mental health and was desperate to feel like myself again.
A very simple blood test by my GP diagnosed a Vitamin D deficiency and after a short course of Vitamin D supplements I had been transformed. I felt great but I started to wonder how many of the mums I work with were also deficient but were simply shrugging the symptoms off as just part and parcel of being a new mum?
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that controls the amount of calcium and phosphate absorbed from our diets. It has long been consider one of the most important minerals for healthy teeth, bones and muscle function but more recently studies have shown that Vitamin D is far more important to the body as a whole, in particular mental health.
As many as 1 in 5 women in the UK suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency with pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers being considered the highest risk. In a 2018 study conducted by Calgary University in which they took a small sample of new mums and tracked their symptoms the most common symptoms were;
* Bone pain in particular lower back pain
Taking a look at the symptoms you could almost be describing any new mum across the UK so why are Vitamin D supplements not being prescribed for more new mums? In July 2016 Public Health England released new advice that all adults and children over five should consider a supplement of Vitamin D of 10 micrograms per day and that pregnant women should take around 20 micrograms, continuing after delivery if they are breastfeeding however statistics show that the majority of women were unaware of this advice.
Perhaps the most interesting findings regarding Vitamin D is the link between the mineral and postnatal depression. With 1 in 5 women being considered vitamin D deficient and 1 in 5 women being diagnosed with postnatal depression it seems a pretty obvious link. In 2014 a study by Robinson et al produced the most conclusive report of the inks between postnatal depression and vitamin D. In a study of 800 women they used the Edinburgh Scale of depression to measure the mental health of the new mums and correlated this with their vitamin D levels. The study showed in every woman that the lower the Vitamin D levels in the body the higher the score on the Edinburgh Scale.
Now that’s not to suggest that all mums with postnatal depression are merely Vitamin D deficient but it is certainly cause to consider your intake of this wonder mineral.
So how can you increase the levels of Vitamin D?
*The easiest way is through sunlight, just 30 minutes in the sun can produce as much as 25000Iu of vitamin D however those with darker skin will need longer and of course it depends on the British weather whether you can get out in the sun long enough each day to produce enough vitamin D all year round.
*There are also some foods that contain very little amounts vitamin D such as oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon as well as red meat, egg yolks and liver however as the amounts are so small you would need to consume large amounts of these foods to get your daily intake which may have adverse health effects.
*The most effective way is by taking a vitamin D supplement which you can get at almost any reputable health store or if you are breastfeeding you can get these free as part of the Healthy start initiative at most children’s centres or from your doctor.
If you are concerned that you may be vitamin D deficient it is important to seek advice from your doctor who can take a simple blood test to check the levels of vitamin D in your body. If you are found to be deficient you will be prescribed a short course of high dose vitamin D solution to get the levels back to a normal rate. The most important thing is that Vitamin D deficiency is pretty easy to rectify so don’t worry if you think you could be affected.
You can find more information about vitamin D on the NHS website www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d