The failure is leading to very low levels of the essential vitamin being found in some mothers and newborn babies, particularly in winter – with mothers from poor areas at greater risk.
The researchers, led by Professor Paul Haggarty at Aberdeen University’s Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, are recommending that more should be done to improve uptake of advice on vitamin D supplements.
They also suggest that promoting safe sun exposure and access to green spaces in summer could be a useful additional strategy.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to take vitamin D supplements to protect against deficiency, but the success of this advice had not previously been studied in Scotland.
The study, based on 1,205 pregnancies at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital between 2000 and 2006, found that only 21 per cent of the mothers reported taking any vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and only 1 per cent were taking the recommended amount.
Professor Haggarty said: “We need to do more to encourage women to take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy, particularly women from more deprived backgrounds.”