Can Sunshine Boost Your Fertility?

Spring has finally sprung! As we welcome back spring, it is hard not to notice the effect warmer; longer days has on our mood. We feel more cheerful, energized and hopeful. This mood change is linked directly to vitamin D, often nicknamed “The Sunshine Vitamin”. Did you know that Vitamin D impact on your health is much greater than making you smile? Not only it boosts your mood it may also boost your fertility too!

What is Vitamin D and why is it important?

Contrary to its name, Vitamin D is technically a hormone, not a vitamin. It is essential for healthy bodily function. Calcitriol, the active form of Vitamin D is necessary for regulating calcium levels in our bodies, which is vital for a healthy development of our bones and teeth. Calcitriol also plays an important role in boosting our immune system, fighting viral infections, lowering the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and some type cancers. Vitamin D is also linked to other aspects of our wellbeing such as reducing depression symptoms and helping with losing weight.

How do you get the vitamin D you need?

  1. From exposure to the sun –  Vitamin D is produced in your skin in response to sunlight. Ideally, 15-20 minutes of sun exposure to bright sunlight per day is required to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D in your body. However, with the danger of unprotected exposure to UV light from the sun and weather restrictions, Canadians are not getting enough sunlight which impacts their vitamin D levels.In fact, according to statistics Canada 1/3 of Canadians are lacking sufficient levels of this Vitamin D and 10% of Canadians are clinically defined as vitamin D deficient. During the winter time, more Canadians are at risk with the lack of sunshine and outdoor activities. People with a dark skin tend to be more prone to vitamin D deficiency.
  2. From your diet- Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods naturally; however, you can find vitamin D in fortified foods like milk, soy, orange juices, and margarine. The only natural sources of vitamin D in the Canadian diet are fatty fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines), egg yolks, and mushrooms.

Why is Vitamin D important for fertility and pregnancy?

Keeping a healthy balanced diet that includes all food groups, nutrients and vitamins is important for your health at any age and stage in life. It is even more important when you are trying to conceive and preparing your body for supporting a healthy pregnancy.

It is a well known, fact that vitamin D is important for maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy increases your risk of anemia, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, bacterial vaginosis, and unplanned cesarean birth. Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is also associated with lower birth weight, impaired fetal skeletal formation, reduced bone mass and lowered cognitive function of the baby.

Could Vitamin D also contribute to IVF success?

The link between vitamin D and fertility was first suggested when Vitamin D receptors and enzymes were identified in the uterus lining and (the endometrium) and testis. This finding supported the theory that vitamin D has an important role in the reproductive system. Further findings in animal models demonstrated the direct link between vitamin D deficiency and infertility.

In addition, a recent study showed a direct connection between Vitamin D and IVF success. In this study, women who were deficient in vitamin D were half as likely to conceive using in vitro fertilization compared with women without vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D was also shown to play an important role in male fertility by positively associated with sperm count and motility. Vitamin D deficiency was also associated with recurrent early pregnancy loss.

Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

A simple blood test could let you know what your vitamin D levels in the blood are. Vitamin D deficiency is defined by blood levels below 30 nmol/L. People with vitamin D blood levels between 30 and 50 nmol/L are potentially at risk of inadequate levels. Regardless, the standard recommendations for a woman preparing for pregnancy are folic acid (at least 0.4mg per day) and vitamin D ( 4000 IU per day.)  It is important that you consult your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplements.

In the meantime, enjoy the warm weather and sun, it’s good for you!  

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