Updated: Jun 11
There has been a flood of information about the importance of checking and maintaining a healthy level of vitamin D; deficiency is associated with a wide variety of diseases from diabetes to arthritis. Even so, it may come as a surprise to read that vitamin D deficiency can also have negative impact on your fertility.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin on exposure to sunlight radiation; we are designed to make lots in the summer which is stored in our fat cells for use through the winter months. It is possible to acquire some vitamin D through diet, but it is difficult to get as much as we need through diet so we are heavily dependent on being able to make it in our skin.
How Does Vitamin D Affect Your Fertility?
In a study published in 2012 200 women undergoing IVF had their vitamin D levels tested, the results showed that women with a good level were four times more likely to have had a successful pregnancy. Vitamin D is essential for both male and female fertility; Vitamin D is an important antioxidant which contributes to healthy egg and sperm development. A good level of vitamin D is also associated with a reduced risk of miscarriage, with one study showing a direct link between increased vitamin D levels and a reduction in pregnancy loss.
Vitamin D Deficiency
1 in 5 people in the UK are likely to be vitamin D deficient, and for the black community that risk increases to around 50%. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a significant increase in risk of developing fibroids in women, and some studies suggest that increased risk vitamin D deficiency may be the reason that black women have an increased risk of developing fibroids.
If you have endometriosis or another inflammatory condition, you may find that your vitamin D level is particularly low. It is particularly important to maintain a good vitamin D level if you have endometriosis because it can help you to counteract the harmful effects of the associated inflammation.
How Can You Check Your Vitamin D Level?
It is easy to have your vitamin D level checked either through your GP, or using a postal service which tests a drop of blood that you can obtain with a simple prick at home (www.medichecks.com).. I have seen it suggested that a level of 30ng/ml is sufficient for fertility purposes, but other research suggests that is still a bit low for optimum fertility and I would recommend aiming for a level over 50ng/ml; if you have an inflammatory condition such as endometriosis, a level nearer to 70ng/ml may be more appropriate.
How To Get More Vitamin D
Vitamin D is present in some foods such as egg yolks, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) and meat, however it is difficult to get sufficient vitamin D from diet so it is often necessary to supplement vitamin D, especially in the winter. We recommend you supplement vitamin D with an oil-based delivery system such as the BetterYou vitamin D oral spray that we stock in our clinics (betteryou.com/vitamin-d) or as an oil-based soft gel capsule; if you take it as a capsule, it is best to take it with a meal containing some fat to aid absorption. The recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 400IU/d, but if you are particularly deficient you may be advised to take a higher does for a few weeks before dropping down to a maintenance dose.
You can also top up your vitamin D naturally by exposing some bare skin to the sun. As little as 10 minutes of sunshine a day on your face and forearms between the months of March and September can provide all the vitamin D you need.
Vitamin D is easily overlooked when checking fertility markers in blood tests, but it is important to maintain a healthy vitamin D level for good egg and sperm production, healthy implantation and a healthy pregnancy. If you work with a Fertility Support Trained acupuncturist, this is one of the simplest contributors to infertility that can be easily checked any deficiency rectified.
Baird DD, Hill MC, Schectman JM, Hollis BW. Vitamin d and the risk of uterine fibroids. Epidemiology. 2013;24(3):447‐453. doi:10.1097/EDE.0b013e31828acca0
Bodnar LM, Simhan HN, Powers RW, Frank MP, Cooperstein E, Roberts JM. High prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in black and white pregnant women residing in the northern United States and their neonates. J Nutr. 2007;137(2):447‐452. doi:10.1093/jn/137.2.447