The researchers from the University College London Institute of Child Health wrote in the British Journal of Nutrition that supplementation of vitamin D will benefit pregnant women and reduce the risk of diseases such as infantile hypocalcaemia and rickets.
They said the UK was the only country in 31 that did not officially recommend vitamin D use women of reproductive age, even though the Department of Health advises pregnant women to take 10 micrograms per day.
But that advice is contradicted by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) which advises against supplements use – even though 10 micrograms is not usually attainable via a regular diet and sunshine.
The paper said the UK was the only one of 31 countries examined which did not recommend that women of reproductive age took a vitamin D supplement.
"The incidence of vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women in Britain is unacceptably high, especially during winter and spring,” said Dr Elina Hypponen, one of the report authors.
"This is compounded by a lack of exposure to sunlight and the limitations of an average diet to meet the optimal need. In the most severe cases, maternal vitamin D deficiency can be life threatening to a newborn.”
"We believe that the routine provision of a daily supplement throughout pregnancy would significantly decrease the number of mothers who are clearly vitamin D deficient, reducing related serious risks to their babies."
The research also highlighted the problem of women with dark skin who do not absorb as much sunlight and therefore manufacture less vitamin D in vivo.
Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print doi:10.1017/S0007114510002436
“Avoidance of vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy in the United Kingdom: the case for a unified approach in National policy”
Authors: Elina Hyppönen and Barbara J. Boucher