Birth cohort studies provide an invaluable resource for studies of the influence of the fetal environment on health in later life. It is uncertain to what extent maternal vitamin D status influences fetal development. Using an unselected community-based cohort of 901 mother-offspring pairs (the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort [Raine] Study), we examined the relationship between maternal vitamin D deficiency at 18 weeks’ pregnancy and long-term health outcomes of offspring who were born in Perth, Western Australia (32° South), in 1989–1991. Vitamin D deficiency (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] <50 nmol/L) was present in 36% (323 of 901) of the pregnant women. After adjusting for relevant covariates, maternal vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy was associated with impaired lung development in 6-year-old offspring, neurocognitive difficulties at age 10, increased risk of eating disorders in adolescence, and lower peak bone mass at 20 years. In summary, vitamin D may have an important, multifaceted role in the development of fetal lungs, brain, and bone. Experimental animal studies support an active contribution of vitamin D to organ development. Randomized controlled trials of vitamin D supplementation in pregnant women with long-term follow-up of offspring are urgently required to examine whether the correction of vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women is beneficial for their offspring and to determine the optimal level of maternal serum 25(OH)D for fetal development.

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