NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin D may be at increased risk for developing bacterial vaginosis, a vaginal infection that may have harmful effects on the pregnancy, according to a report in The Journal of Nutrition.
Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of the bacteria normally found in a woman's vagina, which is upset by an overgrowth of bacteria not usually present. It is the most common vaginal infection in women of child-bearing age. Symptoms include discharge, odor, pain, itching and burning.
When present during pregnancy, bacterial vaginosis is known to increase the chances of preterm delivery.
Dr. Lisa M. Bodnar from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pennsylvania, and colleagues examined the association between vitamin D status and bacterial vaginosis in the first trimester of pregnancy in 469 women.
The team found that 41 percent of the women had bacterial vaginosis, and 52 percent had low levels of vitamin D. Further analysis showed that vitamin D levels were lower in women with bacterial vaginosis than in those without the infection.
The researchers found that low vitamin D levels were linked to bacterial vaginosis in black women, but not in white women. However, this may simply be because relatively few white women were included in the study.
"Our findings suggest that vitamin D deficiency is associated with bacterial vaginosis at less than 16 weeks of pregnancy," the authors conclude. If the findings are confirmed in other studies, they add, vitamin D deficiency may partially account for the racial differences seen in rates of bacterial vaginosis and in other pregnancy complications.
SOURCE: Journal of Nutrition, April 8, 2009.