Could Vitamin D Levels and Birth Month Put Your Baby’s Immune System at Risk?

Photo: Veer / The Bump
Photo: Veer / The Bump

A new study published in the journal JAMA Neurology concluded that newborn babies’ immune systems and vitamin D levels differ depending on which month of the year they were born.

The findings of the study help researchers explain why a person’s risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) is impacted by their birth month and also indentifies the need for further research on the potential advantages of vitamin D supplementation during the course of pregnancy, to help fight off gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and low birth weight newborns.

In the past, other studies have shows that the month you’re born can be a factor in your risk for developing MS. Research has shown that the risk for MS appears to be the highest for babies born in May, and lowest for those born in November. And last year a study published in the journal Neurology indicated that higher levels of vitamin D during pregnancy could later prevent MS in mothers.

The recent study, however, took blood samples from the umbilical cords of 50 babies born in November (the lowest risk month) and 50 babies born in May (the highest risk month). Researchers studied the vitamin D levels and levels of autoreactive T-cells (white blood cells that help the immune system fight off infections) found in babies blood.

For the JAMA study, blood samples were taken from the umbilical cords of 50 babies born in November and 50 babies born in May. Researchers looked at levels of vitamin D and levels of autoreactive T-cells in the babies’ blood. The researchers noted that babies born in May had significantly lower levels of vitamin D and higher levels of autoreactive T-cells compared to those babies born in November.

Co-author of the study, Dr. Sreeram Ramagopalan, said, “By showing that month of birth has a measurable impact on in utero immune system development, this study provides a potential biological explanation for the widely observed “month of birth” effect in MS. Higher levels of autoreactive T-cells, which have the ability to turn on the body, could explain why babies born in May are at a higher risk of developing MS.”

Ramagopalan also went on to reiterate the need for further studies to determine the effect of vitamin D on pregnant women, and how it impacts baby’s immune system development. He said, “The correlation with vitamin D suggests this could be the driver of this effect. There is a need for long-term studies to assess the effect of vitamin D supplementation in pregnant women and the subsequent impact on immune system development and risk of MS and other autoimmune diseases.”

Did you have a baby born in May? Were you worried about your vitamin D levels?

Plus, more from The Bump:

How Often Should We Go to the Pediatrician?

Pregnancy Diet: What to Eat When You’re Pregnant

Vitamin D May Help You Get Pregnant