A baby's birth month can affect its immune systems and vitamin D levels, new research shows.
Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, and the University of Oxford carried out the study, whose results were published in the journal JAMA Neurology . The results point to biological reasons behind the fact that an individual's birth month can affect his or her chances of getting multiple sclerosis (MS). It also indicates that more studies are needed into the potential benefits of pregnant women receiving vitamin D supplements.
Earlier research has shown links between low vitamin D levels and dangers during pregnancy. Vitamin D deficiencies during pregnancy can lead to preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. It can also result in newborns with low birth weights.
Another study that came out in last year's Neurology journal found that high vitamin D levels during pregnancy could avert the later development of multiple sclerosis in the mothers.
There are nearly 100,000 people in the UK with the neurological illness MS, whereby a person's immune systems attacks the body's central nervous system. MS disrupts the messages sent by the brain to other parts of the body and can lead to problems with memory, hearing, muscle control and vision.
Scientists think the development of MS is linked to a sophisticated interplay between genes and our environment.
A number of population studies have shown a link between a person's birth month and the risk of developing MS. In England this "birth month effect" is particularly notable, with people born in May having the highest risk of developing MS.
Just as the skin produces vitamin D when it gets sunlight, the effect of a person's birth month is seen as evidence of pregnancy playing a role in the levels of the vitamin and the consequent risk of MS.
Copyright Press Association 2013