Danger of Excess Vitamin A During Pregnancy: Learn About the Connection Between Too Much Vitamin A & Birth Defects

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Vitamin A Concerns During Pregnancy

Most Americans get an ample supply of vitamin A from their diet. Vitamin A is formed in our bodies from two types of compounds: retinoids (or preformed vitamin A) found in fortified cereals, fish, eggs, and meat, or carotenoids (such as beta-carotene) found in fruits and vegetables.

While you are pregnant, it is important to note how much vitamin A you get from which source. An excess of preformed vitamin A has been shown to cause birth defects. Birth defects have not been associated with excessive does of beta-carotene or other carotenoids.

Supplement Recommendations

Your prenatal vitamin probably contains some vitamin A, and that’s good considering your increased need for vitamin A during pregnancy. Vitamin A helps with infection resistance and is important for the development of everything from your baby’s eyes and heart to it’s skin. For more information, see The Importance of Vitamin A and Vitamin D during Pregnancy.

Check the supplement facts label on your prenatal vitamin to determine the amount of vitamin A it contains. The label should state how much vitamin A comes from retinoid sources (such as retinyl palmitate) and carotenoid sources (such as beta-carotene). According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, which conducts micronutrient research, “no increase in the risk of vitamin A-associated birth defects has been observed at doses of preformed vitamin A from supplements below 3,000 mcg/day (10,000 IU/day). Since a number of foods in the U.S. are fortified with preformed vitamin A, pregnant women should avoid multivitamin or prenatal supplements that contain more than 1,500 mcg (5,000 IU) of vitamin A.”

That said, your prenatal vitamin does not need to contain 100% of your daily requirement for vitamin A. In fact, it shouldn’t. Since commonly eaten foods contain vitamin A, you will easily meet the remaining requirement from your diet. If your prenatal vitamin does contain 100% of your daily need for vitamin A determine that most of the vitamin A comes from beta-carotene, not a retinoid source.

Talk with your healthcare provider about the prenatal vitamin they recommend for you. For more information on top recommended over-the-counter prenatal vitamins, see Best Prenatal Vitamins.