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Pregnant women should be screened for rickets

19th August 2011

Experts have issued a new warning over the bone disease rickets in the UK.

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An article in the Journal of Medical Screening says the NHS should consider checking pregnant women’s vitamin D levels to protect babies from it amid fears the ‘Victorian’ disease was returning because many women were not getting enough vitamin D from natural sources.

In an editorial US pre-natal screening expert Dr James Haddow highlighted cases of seizures, heart failure and rickets in children whose mothers were vitamin D deficient.

He said: "Any strategy aimed at avoiding symptomatic vitamin D deficiency in offspring would logically include assuring adequacy of maternal vitamin D during pregnancy.

"Attending to this aspect of maternal and child health has added significance for mothers who breastfeed."

His warning follows a study in Birmingham which found almost one in two Asian women were vitamin D deficient. GPs in the area are already screening pregnant women from the Asian community but there are no formal protocols in place.

One of the authors, Dr Jonathan Berg, said: “Screening in selected populations is currently the way forward, but clearly it is very difficult for the NHS to test everyone. We are seeing a big increase in demand from the 'worried well'.”

Department of Health advice for all pregnant women to take vitamin D supplements but it has asked the scientific advisory committee to review the evidence on vitamin D requirements for different population groups.

A spokesman added: “Our priority is to ensure health professionals provide consistent advice and implement the current recommendations.”

 

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