Many pregnancy myths cause undue alarm in moms-to-be, but research does back some claims. Low levels of vitamin D in pregnant women, for example, increase the risk of ADHD in children by as much as 34%, one study states. While pregnancy scares are perfectly normal, don’t panic just yet. The studies regarding pregnancy and ADHD are still new.
New Scientific Findings
The Finnish pioneer study documents the experience of more than 1,000 children born in 1998 and 1999. Children whose mothers’ vitamin D levels were below the level doctors recommend to maintain optimum health throughout pregnancy developed ADHD at much higher rates in comparison to those who did receive an adequate amount of the vitamin.
As ADHD is one of the most common chronic diseases in children, the research is drawing quite a bit of attention. The CDC states that as many 6.4 million children in America alone have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and the prevalence of the condition has increased by 42% in the last eight years alone.
While scientific journals around the world cite the Finnish study often, researchers still need more evidence to provide a conclusive answer as to whether or not vitamin D deficiency alone can cause ADHD in children. Still, it’s worth taking a closer look at maternal vitamin D levels and the crucial role the nutrient plays in the health of both mom and baby.
Vitamin D and Pregnancy
While everyone needs a certain amount of vitamin D, pregnant women must ensure they get the recommended dose. The American Pregnancy Association states that it is one of “the most significant compounds for human development.”
Vitamin D helps prevent premature birth, blood clots in the mother, and is crucial for the development of a baby’s bones and teeth. Additionally, recent studies state that vitamin D may play a vital role in protecting the central nervous system. Between 40% and 60% of the total U.S. population is at risk for vitamin D deficiency, making it the main point of concern for pregnant women.
During pregnancy, women absorb calcium at higher rates through their intestinal walls to help support their baby’s growth. As the need for calcium increases, so does the need for vitamin D.
Vitamin D and ADHD
The link between vitamin D deficiency and ADHD is not well understood just yet, but researchers believe that it may be related to the role the nutrient plays in protecting the central nervous system. Adolescent psychiatry believes that ADHD occurs when the central nervous system and the brain do not develop correctly. The result is reduced attention span, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity in children.
Additionally, premature birth and low birth weight are may also increase the risk of a child developing ADHD. As vitamin D helps prevent pre-term labor, this may be an indicator that deficiency has a connection to the chronic disease.
What to Do
As research is still in the early stages, and the full impact that vitamin D deficiency has on ADHD is not conclusive, don’t go into full panic mode and start double-dosing prenatal supplements. Vitamin D is essential for many vital aspects of pregnancy and a growing baby, so ensure that you are getting the appropriate amount no matter what.
However, only a doctor can determine if you are experiencing a deficiency and need extra help getting the nutrient. If you have concerns, discuss them at your next doctor’s appointment and always mention any new symptoms you experience throughout your pregnancy.