Is Vitamin A Safe to Take While Pregnant?

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient during pregnancy that nurtures a developing baby’s heart, lungs, circulatory system, eyes, and bones. However, there is an upper limit on how much vitamin A is safe in pregnancy, so being deliberate about your vitamin A intake during pregnancy is crucial.

By: Libby Pellegrini MMS, PA-C

Medically Reviewed By: Cara Everett, MS, RDN, LDN

Publication Date: November 22nd, 2023

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you may have questions about how to support your pregnancy journey with nutrition. Your nutrition requirements are higher during pregnancy to support your changing body and the growth and development of your baby in utero.

One vitamin that is a crucial nutrient for your baby during pregnancy is vitamin A. While you might have heard the warnings regarding vitamin A toxicity while pregnant, vitamin A is a vital nutrient for you and your growing baby.

Read on to learn more about the role of vitamin A, how much vitamin A is safe, and how much is too much during pregnancy.

Vitamin A in Pregnancy: Its Roles and Benefits 

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin used in many processes in the body. For women planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant, vitamin A supports vision, immune function, and cellular communication. For a developing baby, vitamin A is necessary for a healthy pregnancy because it supports the development of:

  • Heart and lungs
  • Eyes
  • Skin and bones
  • Blood vessels
  • Immune system

How Much Vitamin A Is Safe?

Health experts have produced guidelines for vitamin A consumption in pregnancy:

  • The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for pregnancy, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is 750 mcg in the first trimester of pregnancy and 770 mcg in the second and third trimesters.
  • The tolerable upper intake levels (ULs) for Vitamin A in pregnancy and lactation are 3,000 mcg daily.

How Much Is Too Much Vitamin A During Pregnancy?

While vitamin A is a crucial building block during pregnancy, exceeding the UL can cause problems. In fact, experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) note that excessive vitamin A, also known as vitamin A toxicity, can lead to birth defects such as malformation of a baby’s eyes, skull, lungs, and heart. 

In an expectant mother, signs of vitamin A toxicity may include severe headaches, blurry vision, nausea, dizziness, muscle aches, dry skin, fatigue, depression, or abnormal liver function. For these reasons, the NIH cautions people who are planning a pregnancy, pregnant, or lactating not to exceed 3,000 mcg of vitamin A daily.

Which Foods Contain Vitamin A?

Vitamin A can be found in a number of food sources. These foods include:

  • Beef liver
  • Sweet potato
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkins
  • Carrots
  • Atlantic herring
  • Milk
  • Cantaloupe
  • Red peppers
  • Mangos
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Eggs
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Apricots
  • Broccoli
  • Salmon
  • Tomato juice

Most pregnant women are able to meet their daily vitamin A requirement through food and prenatal vitamins alone. Taking prenatal vitamins with vitamin A can help women ensure they are getting the consistent amount of vitamin A needed in pregnancy.

How To Determine if You Need a Vitamin A Supplement While Pregnant

It’s important for expectant women to know their vitamin A requirements may be different from the RDA, based on how their genetic makeup affects their vitamin A metabolism. This is why genetic screening with the Genate Test can be a great way for expectant mothers to identify their individual needs for vitamin A intake and choose the most effective prenatal vitamin.

In general, if you have a balanced diet, you should not need a vitamin A supplement. However, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency below, consult with your doctor:

  • Night blindness, or trouble seeing in low light.
  • Frequent infections, since vitamin A bolsters the immune system.
  • Skin and eye irritation or dryness, with scaling or itching.

Wondering if you need more or less vitamin A in your diet? Our team of dietitians offers maternal nutritional counseling tailored to your specific needs. 

The Bottom Line

Vitamin A is a crucial nutrient during pregnancy because it supports your baby’s overall growth, including the development of the heart, lungs, circulatory system, kidneys, eyes, and bones. During your pregnancy journey, you can get vitamin A from various plant and animal food sources, fortified foods, and prenatal vitamins. 

However, it’s important to be aware of your vitamin A intake, as exceeding the tolerable upper limit can raise the risk of toxicity and birth defects.

To learn more about supporting your baby’s nutrition during pregnancy, make sure to check out the Precision-Nutrition Package from SNP Therapeutics. 

This article is not intended as medical advice to treat or diagnose any health condition but rather as educational health information for the general public. It should not be used as a substitute for individualized medical care from your healthcare provider. 

About the Author

Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C, is a professionally trained journalist and physician assistant. She has worked in numerous healthcare settings, including the rural United States, an inner-city Level I trauma center, and several suburban acute care centers. It was during her time at a functional medicine clinic in Southeast Asia that she developed an interest in the role of SNPs in personalized genetic evaluation and discovered how gene-guided nutritional counseling can enhance individual health outcomes.

Libby graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, and her medical writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including WebMD, RxSaver, KevinMD, NPHIC, and Men’s Health.

Sources

  1. Vitamin A. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/. Updated June 15, 2022. Accessed September 20, 2023.

  2. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf. Published 2020. Accessed September 20, 2023.

  3. Vitamin A and carotenoids. National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/ Updated June 15, 2022. Accessed October 15, 2022. Maia SB, Souza ASR, Caminha MFC, da Silva SL, Cruz R, dos Santos C, et al. Vitamin A and pregnancy: a narrative review. Nutrients. 2019;11(3):681. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11030681

  4. Vitamin A deficiency. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed October 30, 2023.

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