The Importance of Sunshine During Your Pregnancy

Sun's out, bump's out

By Sadie Flynn – August 4, 2023

Look – I know we’re in a sweltering heat wave summer, I know it’s hot at literally all hours of the day, and I know when you pair the outdoors with a summer pregnancy things can get… heated (and chaffed). But ladies, listen:

A significant number of women aren’t getting enough key nutrients during their pregnancies, and among them is that milk-made, fish-full, sun-soaked vitamin D. And not to sound dramatic, but, a vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can have several negative – some severe – side effects. But let’s not get our bikinis in a bunch – here are the facts:

Who is at risk of a vitamin D deficiency?

Fortunately (or unfortunately), not all pregnant women are at risk of a deficiency. There are some specific factors that contribute: like living in regions with little or low sun exposure, adhering to a vegan or vegetarian diet, or engaging in cultural or religious practices that limit sun exposure (like wearing long, covering clothing).

It’s also important to note that women with darker skin tones have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency because melanin reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. Obesity, malabsorption disorders, and taking certain medications that could interfere with vitamin D absorption or metabolism are also substantial factors to a vitamin D deficiency.

And what are the risks of vitamin D deficiency?

Now that we know who is at risk of a deficiency, let’s unpack what exactly can manifest from a vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in insulin production and regulation, and without it, the risk of gestational diabetes increases significantly. As does the risk of preeclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure and organ damage. It can also affect the development of the baby’s bones, leading to a higher risk of skeletal deformities. Furthermore, vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Overall? This micronutrient packs a major pregnancy punch – so it’s imperative that pregnant women prioritize their exposure to it.

But how? Well, I’ll tell you.

Three ways to boost your vitamin D

I know all of the above probably feels heavy – but not all hope is lost! Here are three  simple, specific ways women can increase their vitamin D exposure and absorption.

  1. By the sun (obviously). Going outside is probably the easiest way for most folks to boost their vitamin D levels. Exposing large areas of your skin to the sun during peak hours (10a to 3p), for 10-30 minutes, two to three times a week, is the widespread recommendation for maximum absorption of sunlight and production of vitamin D in the skin. And yes, wearing sunscreen can impact your absorption levels, but even with sunscreen, some vitamin D synthesis can still occur. So balance your exposure with bare skin and blocked skin to avoid those harmful UVBs but still soak up those sweet, sweet rays.
  2. By eating vitamin D rich foods. You know what they say: food is medicine. Some of the most vitamin D-rich foods out there are oily, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna. Eggs, beef liver, mushrooms, and fortified dairy products are also foods super high in vitamin D.
  3. By taking vitamin D supplements (as recommended by your healthcare provider). Most prenatal vitamins (any worth taking, anyway) come packed with vitamin D3. But adding a cod liver oil supplement is also an excellent way to boost your vitamin D intake!

So ladies, I know the earth is having a barbecue (and we are the meat) right now, but do what you can to make sure you get that vitamin D. As if your pregnant self needed another reason to hit the pool.

About the Author

Sadie Flynn is a CrossFit Level 2 Certified Trainer, Pregnancy and Postpartum Fitness Coach, and former collegiate athlete with a penchant for power lifts. As a mom, Sadie is deeply passionate about pregnant and postpartum fitness and wellness, and works hard to help educate and empower women to take intentional care of their bodies before, during, and after birth. When she’s not coaching at CrossFit Renew, or forcing her 90s alternative music beliefs upon you, you can probably find her playing a basic board or card game over some beers with anyone who’s willing. Or, like most millennials in this town, eating her way through Austin with her husband and two kiddos.


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