Early prenatal vitamin D concentrations and social-emotional development in infants

Devika Chawla, Bernard Fuemmeler, Sara E. Benjamin-Neelon, Cathrine Hoyo, Susan Murphy, Julie L. Daniels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Many pregnant women in the United States have suboptimal vitamin D, but the impact on infant development is unclear. Moreover, no pregnancy-specific vitamin D recommendations have been widely accepted. Aims: Given the ubiquitous expression of vitamin D receptors in the brain, we investigated the association between early prenatal plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentrations and children’s social and emotional development in the Newborn Epigenetic Study, a prospective study of pregnancies from 2009 to 2011 in Durham, North Carolina. Methods: We measured 25(OH)D concentrations in first or second trimester plasma samples and categorized 25(OH)D concentrations into quartiles. Covariates were derived from maternal questionnaires. Mothers completed the Infant Toddler Social-Emotional Development Assessment when children were 12–24 months of age. We used multivariable linear regression to evaluate associations between 25(OH)D and specific behavior scores, adjusted for season of blood draw, maternal age, education, parity, smoking, marital status, prepregnancy BMI, and infant gender. We investigated effect-measure modification by race/ethnicity. Results: Of the 218 mother–infant pairs with complete data, Black mothers had much lower 25(OH)D concentrations as compared to White and Hispanic mothers. After adjustment, lower prenatal 25(OH)D was associated with slightly higher (less favorable) Internalizing scores among White children, but lower (more favorable) Internalizing scores among Black and Hispanic children. Lower prenatal 25(OH)D also appears to be associated with higher (less favorable) dysregulation scores, though only among White and Hispanic children. Conclusions: Though imprecise, preliminary results warrant further investigation regarding a role for prenatal vitamin D on children’s early social and emotional development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1441-1448
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 3 2019


  • 25(OH)D
  • epidemiology
  • neurodevelopment
  • prenatal nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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