Vitamin D linked to fertility, greater success with in vitro fertilization

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones. A deficiency has also been linked to everything from heart disease to cancer. Now it's being linked to infertility, too.

Erica Bushard and her husband have had trouble conceiving, so she's seeing a fertility specialist, Dr. Dan Gehlbach. Bushard admits that she's also turned to wive's tales.

"Eating pineapple, doing things on certain days," said Bushard.

Research suggests the vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, may be a more solid choice as a fertility helper.

"It may be involved in genes that regulate attachment of the embryo to the uterus. It may also be involved in egg production and maturation," said Dr. Gehlbach.

Research has found that couples in northern countries have more trouble conceiving during the dark winter months when vitamin D levels in the body would presumably be lower.

A new study looked at couples who tried in vitro fertilization. Women deficient in vitamin D were about half as likely to conceive that way compared to women who weren't deficient.

"It's obviously not the total picture, but I know that we will be screening our patients for vitamin D levels," said Dr. Gehlbach.

He said women who want to conceive should talk with their doctors about screening, and if levels are low, talk about how to boost them. Some foods, including milk, contain vitamin D, but it can be hard to get enough from food alone. You may need supplements. Prenatal vitamins, often taken even before pregnancy, contain vitamin D, but be aware that the amount varies.

You can also get vitamin D straight from the sun. The National Institutes of Health recommends 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine without sunscreen three times a week for the general population.

"Being outside will be something that I strive for extra now," said Bushard.

She said it might be one more thing to help her have a baby.

The new research is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.