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Gynecol Endocrinol. 2007 Jan;23(1):13-24.

Vitamin D: the secosteroid hormone and human reproduction.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Zaragoza Gynecological Institute, Zaragoza, Spain.


Vitamin D is a secosteroid with an endocrine mechanism of action which is sequentially synthesized in humans in the skin, liver and kidneys. The active hormone, 1alpha,25-dihydrocholecalciferol [1,25(OH)2D3], is often considered only in terms of its role in controlling calcium and phosphorus homeostasis. However, cumulative evidence points to the presence of vitamin D receptors in many tissues. The present article summarizes key points regarding the participation of vitamin D in pregnancy and breastfeeding. During pregnancy, sufficient vitamin D concentrations are needed not only to address the growing demand for calcium on the part of the fetus, but also to participate in fetal growth, development of the nervous system, lung maturation and fetal immune system function. Hypovitaminosis D has been related to the development of diabetes, pre-eclampsia and fetal neurological disorders. During pregnancy and lactation, calcium from the maternal skeleton is mobilized, with a rise in bone turnover and a reduction in bone mass. It is advisable for pregnant and nursing women to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D, through small doses of solar exposure to facilitate natural formation of the hormone or by ingesting appropriate vitamin supplements. Further studies are needed to clarify the many gaps in knowledge and elucidate the role of vitamin D in the context of reproduction. Confirmation of experimental observations relating to the risks of hypovitaminosis D would have important public health implications.

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