When I was pregnant with my son, I developed severe preeclampsia and had to deliver him at 27 weeks. It was terrifying and shocking because I had none of the risk factors. I lived in Seattle at the time.
Five years later I got pregnant with my daughter. I lived in fear that I would get preeclampsia again (having had it before ups your risk of getting it again, especially when you develop it as early and severely as I did), but the weeks flew by without incident, and I delivered her full-term within days of my due date. I lived in Florida at the time.
I have scrutinized and analyzed my life and habits during both pregnancies for differences and similarities in things like stress level, diet, weight, and other factors that are thought to contribute to preeclampsia. The only one I keep coming back to is the drastic climate change.
I've suspected vitamin D has something to do with it and heard some medical speculation about it in the past, but a new study provides even more evidence that there may be a link between vitamin D deficiency and preeclampsia.
In the study, researchers found the women with early onset preeclampsia (defined as preeclampsia before the 34th week of pregnancy) had average vitamin D levels of only 18 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), as opposed to women with healthy pregnancies who had levels around 32 ng/mL. Quite a difference.
Researchers say it could explain why African American women are more prone to preeclampsia since people with darker skin tend to absorb less vitamin D from sunlight.
The study isn't conclusive, and doctors say there's no need for pregnant women to consume more than the currently recommended dose of vitamin D -- 400 IU -- until more research is done. Your insurance provider isn't likely to cover your tropical vacation to prevent preeclampsia any time soon either (though it couldn't hurt to spend a few more hours relaxing at the pool, right?).
It does, however, provide an interesting piece of the puzzle for this deadly disease that will hopefully be solved one day soon.
Have you or anyone you know suffered from preeclampsia? Are you surprised to learn of a possible link between vitamin D and the disease?
Image via mmcdonnell/Flickr