A new study suggests there may be a simple way pregnant women can reduce their pain during childbirth. The secret? Higher levels of vitamin D.
The new study included 93 pregnant women whose vitamin D levels were checked before childbirth and who received an epidural for pain during labor. The researchers measured how much pain medication each of the women required during delivery.
Women with lower vitamin D levels required more pain medication than those with higher vitamin D levels, according to the study scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in New Orleans.
"Women often experience lower than normal levels of vitamin D during pregnancy. We found that patients with low levels of vitamin D experienced an increase in pain during childbirth," senior author Dr. Andrew Geller, an anesthesiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said in a society news release.
"Given the research results, prevention and treatment of low vitamin D levels in pregnant women may have a significant impact on decreasing labor pain in millions of women every year," he added.
"This topic needs to be revisited and additional research should be conducted to determine how we can improve the labor experience for women everywhere," Geller concluded.
Vitamin D deficiency is common during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that women at highest risk are vegetarians, women who do not get enough sun exposure and members of ethnic minorities.
You can obtain more vitamin D by:
Making sure that you have enough exposure to the sun. 20 to 25 minutes, without sunscreen, is helpful.
Fresh fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and tuna are a good source of vitamin D.
Canned tuna is also a good source, but check with your OB/GYN on how much canned tuna you should eat while pregnant. Tuna (light canned) is recommended over white Albacore tune because of mercury content.
Fortified milk with vitamin D can offer a vitamin D boost.
Fortified orange juice with vitamin D also offers around 100 IUs, but can vary from brand to brand.
Vitamin D supplements. Be sure to not overdo the dosage. Too much of a good thing is not a good idea as far as vitamin D is concerned. Too much can be toxic. 4,000 IUs is the daily limit recommended from all vitamin D sources including food, sun and supplements.
Egg yolks provide vitamin D in small doses. One yolk yields about 40 IUs.
Fortified cereals can offer additional vitamin D.
While probably not a favorite of many people, a 3.5-ounce serving of beef liver contains about 50 IUs.
Cod liver oil comes in liquid or capsule form. One tablespoon contains about 1,300 IUs of vitamin D.
During the darker winter months, Ultraviolet lamps and bulbs can be helpful. People at high risk of vitamin D deficiency may resort to UV-emitting lamps and bulbs. This includes people unable to absorb the vitamin (mal-absorption) or those who can't get enough in winter months, says Michael F. Holick, MD, a professor of medicine, sociology, and biophysics at Boston University Medical Center.
These are similar to tanning beds, but smaller. "The lamp is only about 24 inches by about 16 inches," says Dr. Holick.
These lamps carry the same skin-cancer risks and need for protective eyewear, so they're best for those with a doctor's recommendation.
A healthy Vitamin D level is recommended for both men and women and the benefits are showing up in studies, not only for pregnant women, but also for heart, skin and emotional health.
Studies presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Sources: Robert Preidt, Health Day Reporter, http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20141014/could-vitamin-d-make-childbirth-less-painful
Ella Quittner, http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20504538,00.html