Expectant women with low levels of vitamin D are at an increased risk of developing a common vaginal infection that raises the risk of preterm delivery, finds a new study.
University of Pittsburgh researchers have revealed that pregnant women with vitamin D deficiency may suffer from bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common vaginal infection.
"Bacterial vaginosis affects nearly one in three reproductive-aged women, so there is great need to understand how it can be prevented," said Dr Lisa M. Bodnar, assistant professor of epidemiology, obstetrics and gynecology, University of Pittsburgh.
"It is not only associated with a number of gynecologic conditions, but also may contribute to premature delivery - the leading cause of neonatal mortality - making it of particular concern to pregnant women," she added.
During the study, the researchers looked at 469 pregnant women, sought to determine whether poor vitamin D status played a role in predisposing women to BV.
They also found that the prevalence of BV decreased as vitamin D levels rose.
Vitamin D may play a role in BV by regulating the production and function of antimicrobial molecules, which in turn may help the immune system prevent and control bacterial infection.
"Although this is a preliminary study, it points out an interesting connection between vitamin D and BV," said Dr. Bodnar.
"We don't recommend pregnant women take mega-doses of vitamin D based on these findings, but they should talk with their doctor if they have concerns about their vitamin D status.
"All women should be encouraged to eat a healthy diet and take a prenatal vitamin before they become pregnant or as soon as they find out they are pregnant," she added.
The study appears in the Journal of Nutrition.