Expecting mothers who took Vitamin D supplements during pregnancy saw reduced chances of their babies developing atopic eczema in the first year of life, according to a new study.
The British Journal of Dermatology published the study, which advocates for women taking at least 1,000 IU of Vitamin D per day in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy in order to curb eczema risks. Breastfeeding for at least one month after delivery also seemed to help newborns stave off the skin irritation.
Atopic eczema is a chronic inflammatory condition (dermatitis) that results in itchy, red, swollen, and cracked skin. Clear fluid may come from the affected areas, which often thickens over time. Children who develop the condition often deal with certain symptoms for life, though the severity can change with treatments.
It is estimated that one in six children aged one to five has atopic eczema, and there has been a global rise over recent decades.
More than 700 pregnant women participated in the British study. Doctors had 352 women taking the Vitamin D supplements from 14 weeks until they gave birth, and 351 took a placebo. The University of Southampton Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Center and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Center administered the first-of-its-kind study.
The amount of Vitamin D in breast milk may have contributed to the findings, as well
Dr. Sarah El-Heis, who was first author of the paper, said the purpose of the study was to determine if recommending Vitamin D supplements made sense for skin conditions.
“Our aim was to see whether taking 1000IU of Vitamin D (cholecalciferol) as a supplement during pregnancy would decrease the risk of atopic eczema in babies. We also wanted to establish whether breastfeeding had any effect on this,” she said.
“Our results showed that babies of mothers who received supplements had a lower chance of having atopic eczema at 12 months, which supports recommendations for Vitamin D supplements to be routine during pregnancy,” she continued. “We found no effect at 24 and 48 months suggesting that other postnatal influences might become more important beyond infancy or that the babies themselves might also need to be supplemented during the postnatal period for a sustained effect.”
Lead researcher Professor Keith Godfrey echoed a similar sentiment.
“We know that Vitamin D can affect the immune system and the proteins that make up our skin. We were interested to know if Vitamin D supplements taken by pregnant women would have an impact on their child’s risk of atopic eczema,” he said. “Our findings showed a positive effect, which was more evident in infants that breastfed. This may reflect supplementation during pregnancy increasing the amount of Vitamin D in breast milk.”
The study also reported an increase in bone density for children — a benefit that doctors believe can last through the first four years of adolescence for kids.