Vitamin A During Pregnancy
Pregnancy comes with a lot of questions about different vitamins and minerals, and how to make sure you’re getting what you and your baby need. Vitamin A during pregnancy is one that’s important to consider. Read on to learn more about Vitamin A during pregnancy.
What is Vitamin A?
There are two forms of Vitamin A: Provitamin A and Preformed Vitamin A. Provitamin A comes from plant food sources, called carotenoids, found in fruits and vegetables. Preformed vitamin A is found in animal food sources (1, 2). Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means it is used best by your body when it is eaten with fatty foods like avocado or full fat cheese (2,3). This also means it is stored for a longer time in your body.
Animal sources, such as liver, fish liver oil, dairy products, eggs, and human milk provide preformed vitamin A (2,3). Plant sources provide provitamin A. It is easily found by the bright colours of fruits and vegetables, such as dark reds, oranges, yellows, and greens (2). Good sources includes foods like kale, spinach, carrots, sweet potato, and mango (2, 3). Provitamin A is different from preformed vitamin A because it is turned into vitamin A once it is in your body (2).
The Importance of Vitamin A During Pregnancy
Both types of vitamin A are important for your body and your baby. This includes your skin, eyes, immune system, cells, fetal bones and the development of reproductive organs (2, 3). With all of this in mind, it is not surprising that vitamin A is needed for the healthy development of your baby (3).
It is important to be aware of vitamin A during pregnancy because too much or too little can have negative effects on the development of your baby. Deficiency is not as common in developed countries. If you are eating a variety of foods, including those brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, you are likely getting enough. Too much vitamin A is more common in developed countries, especially if you’re having foods high in preformed vitamin A or taking it as a supplement.
Are you concerned about supplements, medications or other products, and/or your food choices containing too much vitamin A? We recommend connecting with a Registered Dietitian.
Sources of Vitamin A for Pregnancy
Pregnancy Recommendation (19 years and older): 770 μg RAE/day
Lactation Recommendation (19 years and older): 1300 μg RAE/day
Examples of preformed vitamin A (animal) food sources:
o Goat cheese, soft (50g): 204 μg
o Milk (skim, 1%, 2%, chocolate) (1 cup): 142-158 μg
o Salmon (75g): 112 μg
o Egg (1 large): 70 μg
Examples of provitamin A (plant food sources):
o Baked sweet potato (1 medium): 1096 μg
o Cooked carrots (1/2 cup): 766 μg
o Baby carrots (8 carrots): 552 μg
o Cooked spinach (1/2 cup): 605 μg
o Dried apricots (1/4 cup): 191 μg
Should I Supplement Vitamin A During Pregnancy?
A vitamin A supplement is not recommended during pregnancy, since toxic amounts can cause birth defects. The amount found in prenatal supplements however, is typically safe for pregnancy (2). It is important to note that deficiencies may be common in cases of poor socioeconomic status where eating a balanced diet is hard (3). Health concerns such as diabetes or infections increase your risk of developing a Vitamin A deficiency. If you have any health concerns, this should be discussed with your doctor and dietitian (3).
Final Notes From The Nest
Meeting your vitamin A requirements of 770 μg RAE/day during pregnancy and 1300 μg RAE/day during lactation is important for the health and development of your baby. Eating foods that come from both plants and animals is usually enough to help you meet those requirements without a supplement. If you have concerns about the quality of your food choices and whether or not you should be taking a vitamin A supplement, please talk to Registered Dietitian first.
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- Harrison, E. H. (2012). Mechanisms involved in the intestinal absorption of dietary vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids, 1821(1), 70–77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbalip.2011.06.002
- UnlockFood [Internet]. Canada: Dietitians of Canada; c2021 [updated 2019 March 21; cited 2021 May 30]. What you need to know about vitamin A; [about 5 screens]. Available from: https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Vitamin-A.aspx
- Bastos Maia, S., Rolland Souza, A. S., Costa Caminha, M. de F., Lins da Silva, S., Callou Cruz, R. de S. B. L., Carvalho Dos Santos, C., & Batista Filho, M. (2019). Vitamin A and Pregnancy: A Narrative Review. Nutrients, 11(3), 681–. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11030681