Vitamin D and maternal and child health: Overview and implications for dietary requirements


  • This review was initiated by the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) of the Teratology Society as a result of the March of Dimes/Public Affairs Committee Symposium “Vitamin D Deficiency in Pregnancy and Neonatal Development” presented at the 51st annual meeting of the Teratology Society, 2012.

Correspondence to: Carl L. Keen, Ph.D., Nutrition Department, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616. E-mail:


The essentiality of vitamin D for normal growth and development has been recognized for over 80 years, and vitamin D fortification programs have been in place in the United States for more than 70 years. Despite the above, vitamin D deficiency continues to be a common finding in certain population groups. Vitamin D deficiency has been suggested as a potential risk factor for the development of preeclampsia, and vitamin D deficiency during infancy and early childhood is associated with an increased risk for numerous skeletal disorders, as well as immunological and vascular abnormalities. Vitamin D deficiency can occur through multiple mechanisms including the consumption of diets low in this vitamin and inadequate exposure to environmental ultraviolet B rays. The potential value of vitamin D supplementation in high-risk pregnancies and during infancy and early childhood is discussed. Currently, there is vigorous debate concerning what constitutes appropriate vitamin D intakes during early development as exemplified by differing recommendations from the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intake report and recent recommendations by the Endocrine Society. As is discussed, a major issue that needs to be resolved is what key biological endpoint should be used when making vitamin D recommendations for the pregnant woman and her offspring. Birth Defects Research (Part C) 99:24–44, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.