One of my lovely co-workers is also a mother of three beautiful children. We treated our pregnancies very similarly. Conscious of every food choice, staying active (admittedly she more than I), getting ourselves to every prenatal visit with our midwife.
In other words, we both took the very best care of ourselves and our unborn children from the moment of conception. My friend was even a little braver than I, delivering her children at a local birth center. All went smoothly, she has three beautiful, perfect, lovely kids.
Well, almost perfect.
Her first born started showing signs of tooth decay because of poor tooth enamel at a very early age. She hadn’t expected this turn of events, being that she fed her kids a very healthy diet – sugary foods and drinks not even available – and had breastfed her children as long as her body and baby would allow.
They all had healthy dental hygeine habits…singing ABC’s along with their light-up toothbrushes, ensuring they brushed long enough twice a day.
So how did this happen?
The culprit? A Vitamin D deficiency.
Now wait. Didn’t she eat a healthy diet? I know she did. I watched her eat salads, fruit and veggies, feeding her unborn baby organic, untainted food.
Certainly these foods would have provided her baby enough Vitamin D?
It’s a common misconception that when eating a generally heatlhy diet, along with prenatal vitamins that have enough folic acid, you will consume exactly what you need to feed your body and baby duirng pregnancy.
Actually, it wasn’t until recently, (the first article I found was dated 2008) that scientists linked the lack of Vitamin D in utero to a child’s dental health. Click here to read more of the facts.
Basically speaking…low vitamin D levels in pregnancy may affect tooth calcification, leading to enamel defects (the coating that protects our teeth), which in turn leaves the tooth subject to cavities.
What can I do?
It’s actually pretty easy.
Prenatal vitamins will not give you enough of the good stuff to protect your baby. The bottom line is you need at least 2000 IU of Vitamin D a day in pregnancy. Most prenatal vitamins have between 400-800 IUs. (Don’t double your vitamin! Getting too much of the other stuff is not okay!).
Vitamin D is found in milk, cheese, fatty fish (such as salmon), cod liver oil (ummmm yuk???) and eggs.
Fortunately for our taste buds science has found a way to give us cod liver oil efficiently through supplements…just look for fish oil or cod liver oil supplements at your local vitamin supplier (yea for our taste buds!).
There’s also plenty of Vitamin D in sunshine…but don’t count on living in a sunny state like Colorado as being enough. It wasn’t for my friend. And of course there are risks of too much sun exposure.
So…no, you can’t get your doctor to write a prescription to spend your nine months on a tropical beach for health benefits (sigh….).
Taking the extra supplements, as well as getting higher doses of dietary Vitamin D and some of that good ‘ole sunshine, will give your baby the best chance of forming good enamel on their teeth. Plus it is also shown to aid in brain and heart health, as well as decreasing the incidence of inflammatory linked diseases. Plenty of good reasons – besides good teeth – to get plenty of it throughout your pregnancy.
Teeth start forming as early as 14 weeks of pregnancy, so don’t wait! You cannot overdose on this fat-soluable vitamin so taking it even before conception is okay.
Guilt plagues my friend, as she watches her daughter struggle with the result of something so easily avoided. She knows intellectually – as a nurse – that there was nothing she could have done differently, soley beacause she didn’t know. But as a mother – it is difficult not to blame oneself. Your job is to promote your child’s health, and in her eyes she failed at that.
The fact that my children don’t have the same issues is actually a surprise. It’s possible the glass of milk a day my mother got me in the habit of drinking is the only thing that saved my kids from the same fate.
Whatever the case, the lesson is to keep your eyes and ears open because there is always something new science uncovers. I’m simply lucky that this didn’t happen to my kiddos, and my friend is happy to share her story with others so they don’t have to go through the same trauma.