Pregnant women with low vitamin D levels experience an increased amount of pain during labor, according to a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY™ 2014 annual meeting. Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with depression and pain, but this is the first study to demonstrate its association with increased consumption of pain medication during childbirth.
"Women often experience lower than normal levels of vitamin D during pregnancy," said Andrew W. Geller, M.D., physician anesthesiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and senior author of the study. "We found that patients with low levels of vitamin D experienced an increase in pain during childbirth."
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, vitamin D deficiency is common during pregnancy, particularly among high-risk groups, including vegetarians, women with limited sun exposure and ethnic minorities. Vitamin D is obtained largely from consuming fortified milk or juice, fish oils and dietary supplements.
Researchers measured the vitamin D levels of 93 pregnant women prior to delivery. All of the women requested an epidural for pain during labor. Researchers then measured how much pain medication each woman required during labor. The researchers then compared the quantity of pain medicine used by the women with higher levels of vitamin D compared to those with lower levels of vitamin D.
The study found that the patients with lower levels of vitamin D consumed more pain medication than patients with higher levels of vitamin D.
"Given the research results, prevention and treatment of low vitamin D levels in pregnant women may have a significant impact on decreasing labor pain in millions of women every year," said Dr. Geller. "This topic needs to be revisited and additional research should be conducted to determine how we can improve the labor experience for women everywhere."
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