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An insufficient vitamin D supply in pregnancy may increase risk for depression

June 30, 2014

A new US study reports that low blood vitamin D levels may increase the chance of developing symptoms of anxiety and depression during early pregnancy.

The observational study measured the blood vitamin D concentrations of 498 women who had been pregnant for an average of 15.4 weeks and documented self-reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health disorders (1). The study results showed that about 12% of the participants had moderate anxiety and depression symptoms. The women with the lowest vitamin D levels reported more often about more severe symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to women in the group with the highest levels. Every 1 ng/ml decrease in vitamin D levels was related to an increase in severity. The results also showed that lower vitamin D levels were related to more severe depression symptoms among women who reported no physical activity. This relationship did not exist in women who did report physical activity. The symptoms of depression were independent of factors such as BMI, skin color, season, age or smoking.

The researchers called for future studies to look at the relationship between vitamin D and depressive symp- toms throughout the course of pregnancy and to further explore the role of physical activity in this relation- ship. Depression and anxiety are relatively common during pregnancy, with an estimated 15% to 30% pre- valence among women in the United States. Previous research has suggested that mood disorders during early pregnancy may increase the risk for smoking during pregnancy, complications such as preeclampsia during pregnancy, and poor mental health after birth (2). Vitamin D has been shown to play a role in certain mood disorders (3, 4).

References

  1. Huang J. Y. et al. Association of Serum Vitamin D with Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in Early Pregnancy. Journal of Women’s Health. 2014; 23(7).
  2. Witt W. P. et al. Poor pre-pregnancy and antepartum mental health predicts postpartum mental health problems among US women: A nationally representative population-based study. Womens Health Issues. 2011; 21:304–313.
  3. Anglin R. E. et al. Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry. 2013; 202:100-107.
  4. Tariq M. M. et al. Vitamin D: a potential role in reducing suicide risk? Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2011; 23(3):157-165.