Vitamin A During Pregnancy

Vitamin A is an integral component for an infant’s embryonic growth. The known fat-soluble vitamin contributes to organ development for babies including heart, kidneys, lungs, bones and eyes. As for organ systems, vitamin A during pregnancy is considered beneficial in central nervous system, circulatory system, and pulmonary system development in babies. Other functions include boosting the baby’s immune system and promoting healthy fat metabolism. 

What Should You Know About Vitamin A During Pregnancy?

Vitamin A represents two nutrient types: the preformed vitamin A (retinol or retinoids) and provitamin A carotenoids. The first type, preformed vitamin A, can be obtained from eggs, liver and milk and directly used by the body. Provitamin A carotenoids, which is converted into vitamin A, are obtained from taking in vegetables and fruits. 

Vitamin A’s standard measurement is RAE or retinol activity equivalent, which is based on vitamin A source and potency. For example, 1 microgram (mcg) RAE of retinol is equal to a microgram of retinol. However, obtaining 1 mcg RAE requires 24 mcg alpha-carotene or 12 mcg beta-carotene.

Supplement Facts labels on food products and other references still use an older standard measurement or the International Unit (IU). In this measurement, 3.3 IU is equal to 1 mcg RAE.

How Much Vitamin A Do You Need During Pregnancy?

After establishing the importance of vitamin A to a pregnant woman’s diet, the next question is the recommended amount of vitamin A to intake in ensuring healthy pregnancy and fetal development.

  • Pregnant women older than 19 years needs up to 770 mcg RAE or around 2565 IU of vitamin A daily. Those younger than 18 years old require 750 mcg or 2500 IU daily.
  • Breastfeeding moms will also benefit from vitamin A. Women 19 years old and above should take in 1,300 mcg or 4,330 IU daily. Mothers 18 years old and younger need 1,200 mcg or 4,000 IU daily.

Warnings About Dose of Vitamin A During Pregnancy 

  • Maximum amount: Women younger than 18 years old should not take in more than 2800 mcg RAE or 9,240 IU. Those older than 19 years old should avoid consuming more than 3,000 mcg RAE or 10,000 IU. Take note of vitamin A amounts taken in through fortified foods, meat products, and supplements.
  • Foods to avoid: Liver from veal, chicken, and beef is rich in preformed vitamin A and should be avoided during pregnancy. A 3-ounce beef liver cut or serving can have 12 times more than the recommended vitamin A amount to take in.

What Are the Signs of Vitamin A Deficiency During Pregnancy?

Vitamin A deficiency, or the state of not getting enough amounts of this vitamin to diet, is observed among pregnant women although its cases are rare in the United States unless they suffer from other medical conditions. Nevertheless, it is best to watch out for signs of possible vitamin A deficiency for early management. Signs include weakened immune system and impaired night vision. Another sign is xerophthalmia which shows thickening and dryness of the cornea.

Is Vitamin A Supplement Necessary?

Many women ask about whether if it’s necessary to take in vitamin A supplements to ensure daily recommended amounts. Experts do not recommend taking in a separate vitamin A supplement since they can be obtained from diet and prenatal vitamins, which are rich in this nutrient. They advise reading labels to make sure they stay within the recommended intake and avoid vitamin A overdose. Pregnant mothers thinking that they need additional supplement must consult with their physicians to guarantee if it’s necessary or not.

What’s Considered Vitamin A Overdose During Pregnancy?

Vitamin A is stored in the liver and overdosing in this nutrient may result to liver toxicity. Signs of vitamin A overdose are headache, vomiting, nausea, blurred vision and drowsy feeling. The American Pregnancy Association stated that excessive vitamin A intake during the first three months of pregnancy has been linked to several birth defects.

Women do not have to worried about the amount of carotenoids taken in from fruits and vegetables, but are advised to watch out the amount of preformed vitamin A, which makes the baby prone to birth defects in excessive amounts.

Healthy Sources of Vitamin A During Pregnancy

Beta-carotene’s best sources are fruits and vegetables, especially orange, yellow and green leafy ones. Fortified cereals and milk are known rich in preformed vitamin A.

Foods

Description

Carrots

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It has high contents of lycopene and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A while being a remarkable antioxidant. Lycopene is a renowned phytonutrient that combats cancer.

Sweet Potatoes

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A medium-sized sweet potato offers up to 1,096 mg vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. With 103 calories per serving, sweet potatoes are good addition to a pregnant woman’s diet..

Pumpkins

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Pumpkins’ flavors allow pregnant women to enjoy desserts the healthy way. Obtaining 956 mg of vitamin A is possible by using half a cup of pumpkin and take in only 42 calories with the serving. Similarly with sweet potatoes, its vitamin A contents come in beta carotene form.

Spinach

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Although its color is not yellow or orange, spinach offers up to 573 mg vitamin A together with 30 calories in a half-cup serving. It can be sautéed or included in salad with delicious dressing as snack or as a meal.

Beef

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Beef is a good vitamin A source, but should be selected properly from groceries. Choose a leaner beef cut to ensure healthy nutrients minus excessive fat. It is recommended to look for an organic farm that raises grass-fed livestock.

Kale

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Another green yet great source of beta carotene is kale. A half-cup serving has 20 calories and 478 mg of the needed vitamin in the form of beta carotene.