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Vitamin A And Pregnancy

Vitamin A And Pregnancy

Want to know about vitamin A during pregnancy? What does it do? Is it harmful? How much should I be consuming?

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for a healthy body and a healthy pregnancy. Overall benefits of vitamin A include:

  • Support for the immune system – fights illness and disease, including cancer.
  • Specifically helps eye health by preventing macular degeneration.
  • Aids cell growth and skin health – helps wounds to heal and increases collagen production.
  • Fights inflammation – a root cause of disease.
  • Helps foetal development – bones, teeth, skin and eyes.

In some regions of the world, especially those with poor socioeconomic status such as the Indian subcontinent, vitamin A deficiency can be widespread. Vitamin A deficiency in these regions has been linked to a negative impact on the development and health of the embryo or foetus. In addition, deficiency in breast milk has been associated with increased child mortality after six months. Signs of vitamin A deficiency are impaired night vision and a weakened immune system.

However, many of us need not worry about vitamin A deficiency. In fact, historically, people living in many regions of the world (Europe, Japan, USA) regularly exceed the recommended daily intake of vitamin A (although this has been dealt with in recent years by limiting the amount of vitamin A supplements in animal feed).

Excessive vitamin A has a teratogenic effect. Teratogens are agents that can affect negatively the development of the foetus. Excessive consumption has been linked with congenital birth defects. However many studies that have tackled this issue have used high levels of vitamin A from non-food sources.

The general consensus, therefore, is that most of us in developed countries can adequately address our daily intake of vitamin A through a good balanced diet.

So How Much Should I Be Taking?
Studies have shown that women consuming 15,000 IU daily (or 10,000 IU from supplements) are at greater risk. The recommendation is to consume no more than 10,000 IU daily. 1 IU is the biological equivalent of 0.3 mcg retinol, or of 0.6 mcg beta-carotene.

The World Health Organisation recommends that vitamin A levels should be regulated by; “adequate diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding”.

Different Sources Of Vitamin A
Preformed (retinol or retinoids) – dairy, meat, fish and vitamin supplements.
Provitamin A carotenoid (including beta carotene) – fruits and vegetables.

Which Is Best?
Beta-carotene is widely believed to be the best source of vitamin A as it metabolises more efficiently than other sources.

What Are Good Sources Of Vitamin A?

  • Sweet potato
  • Carrot
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Butternut squash
  • Cos lettuce
  • Dried apricots
  • Cantaloupe melon

What About My Retinol Face Cream?
Although there have been no extensive studies into the effects of the retinol in cosmetics on an unborn child, most studies suggest that there is very limited risk from topical retinoids. However, most experts like to err on the side of caution and advise that you change skin care routine for a few months.

So Is Vitamin A Good For Me And Baby?
Vitamin A is essential to the health of mother and baby. Taking a recommended and trusted prenatal vitamin supplement is advisable (these have controlled levels of vitamin a which can be taken alongside your diet). Make sure that during and after pregnancy you eat a well-balanced diet, including a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Avoid eating liver and liver products, such as pâté, as these have high levels of vitamin A. Always check with your health advisor if you are worried about vitamin A levels during pregnancy.

[For more articles, see our Useful Articles]