Between caring friends, worrisome family members and the wealth of information available on the internet, pregnancy advice can be overwhelming.
And, while there are some definite dos and don'ts (remember: health professionals are the best source of truth), navigating the exact vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy pregnancy (and the recommended quantities of these) doesn't have to be difficult.
A balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins is the best way to ensure you're getting the specific nutrients you need to support your pregnancy and your baby's development.
A supplement, such as Kin's Prenatal Vitamins, can also help fill in the blanks if you need additional nutritional support. Understanding how different vitamins can help (or hinder) your baby's growth and development is the best way to determine what you need to add to your diet — or potentially avoid.
With this in mind, we're here to help you navigate the ins and outs of pregnancy nutrition when it comes to the consumption of vitamin A.
Is it safe to use vitamin A while pregnant? Should you limit the foods that contain vitamin A? Here's what you need to know.
What is vitamin A?
Sometimes called retinol, retinoids, retinal, retinoic acid or retinyl ester, vitamin A is an essential fat-soluble vitamin . Skincare fanatics might recognise these names from their favourite pre-pregnancy products.
While it's recommended to avoid topical vitamin A skincare products during pregnancy, it is important to incorporate this nutrient into your diet. Vitamin A is naturally found in meat, full-fat dairy foods, egg yolks and some fruits and vegetables.
From maintaining your immune system to supporting eye health and reproductive function, vitamin A is important because it contributes to overall wellbeing.
Is vitamin A safe during pregnancy?
Yes. Vitamin A is a safe, and necessary, nutrient to include as part of your diet during pregnancy. However, it's important to monitor your intake of vitamin A (as well as vitamin C and E) as high doses can be dangerous to babies .
Pregnant people should avoid foods that are very high in vitamin A, such as liver or liver products (think pâté or sausages). Most prenatal supplements won't include vitamin A as it's important to avoid taking too much of this vitamin during your pregnancy journey.
You should also steer clear of specific vitamin A supplements during pregnancy, including high-dose multivitamins and fish liver oil.
How much vitamin A do pregnant people need?
The recommended dose of vitamin A for pregnant people varies depending on age. Health professionals advise an intake of 750 micrograms (mcg) per day for ages 14 to 18, and 770 mcg per day for ages 19 to 50 .
Breastfeeding parents should increase their vitamin A intake to 1,200 mcg per day if they're 18 and younger, and 1,300 mcg per day if they're 19 and older .
Why? Well, why vitamin A might not be considered a pregnancy vitamin per se, it is important for your baby's growth, as it helps form healthy skin, supports bone health and contributes to good eyesight in infants.
Why do you need vitamin A during pregnancy?
A healthy intake of vitamin A during pregnancy is considered beneficial for both the mother and baby's health and wellbeing, especially when it comes to eye health. Vitamin A helps to protect key structures in the eye: the cornea, conjunctiva, photoreceptor rod and cone cells in the retina. It also contributes to the development of your baby's eyes, while also helping to maintain night vision in mothers .
Night blindness or blurred vision is usually temporary if it occurs during pregnancy. It can be a sign of vitamin A deficiency, however, it is very rare among pregnant people who maintain a well-balanced diet.
Vitamin A is also important for immunity and skin cell production and helps to develop the millions of tiny air sacs (alveoli) in your baby’s lungs . These crucial structures allow oxygen to transfer into the blood, and carbon dioxide to transfer back out as we breathe.
Offering your baby a healthy supply of vitamin A during pregnancy can help to prepare them for their first few months of life.
Building up natural stores will help your baby to fight any infection and illness as a newborn. Breastfeeding parents should also take note of their vitamin A levels, as they continue to support their baby's growth through feeding.
While vitamin A is important for the immune system, vitamin D also plays an integral role in pregnancy. In fact, vitamin D deficiency is often associated with increased autoimmunity and susceptibility to infection .
So, while many prenatal vitamins don't contain vitamin A, as this can increase the risk of consuming too much of the nutrient, many do contain vitamin D. In fact, Kin's Prenatal contains vitamin D3, in the form of Cholecalciferol, which is the same bioavailable form that is made naturally in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb magnesium and calcium, while also supporting the growth of your baby's bones during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
Can you have too much vitamin A in pregnancy?
It is possible to consume too much vitamin A, which is why it is important to be mindful of the sources in your diet or daily routine . Many foods naturally contain vitamin A, which is why also consuming it in supplement form can cause you to ingest too much vitamin A during pregnancy.
Too much vitamin A can be harmful to an unborn baby as it can lead to an increased risk of birth defects or liver toxicity. This is why pregnant women and those who are trying to conceive should avoid eating liver or liver products like pâté.
If you're aged 19 or older, you shouldn't consume more than 3,000 mcg of vitamin A per day. This applies to those who aren't pregnant, those who are, those who are trying to conceive or people who are breastfeeding.
If you're concerned about your vitamin A levels, make sure you speak to your doctor before taking any specific vitamin supplements.
And, if you're using any prescription acne medication containing retinoids or retinol to treat skin conditions, stop once you start trying to conceive or fall pregnant and discuss other options with your healthcare provider.
What's the best way to consume vitamin A during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, you should avoid any form of vitamin A supplementation and endeavour to eat a well-balanced diet instead. Your meals should be rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those that are known to contain good doses of vitamin A .
Vitamin A deficiency is rare and not usually a concern. However, as always, your doctor will be able to advise if you need to increase your levels.
Pregnancy-safe foods rich in vitamin A
Vitamin A is found in a number of healthy, pregnancy-safe food sources and comes in two forms: preformed vitamin A (retinol) and provitamin A carotenoids (beta-carotene).
While there's no need to go out of your way to pack your diet with herbal supplements, dietary supplements or multivitamin supplements, it is worth making sure you're eating a balanced diet that is packed with adequate vitamin levels .
This form of vitamin A is found in animal sources and foods that are packed with protein, including:
- Eggs (especially the yolk)
- Oily fish
Fruits and vegetables, especially those that are red, yellow and orange in colour, are rich in beta-carotene, which can be converted into vitamin A by the body. These foods include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Rock melon
Preparing foods in certain ways can affect how well vitamins are absorbed by your body. For example, chopping, grating, juicing or cooking vitamin A-rich foods can make provitamin A carotenoids easier for your body to absorb.
Preparing for your baby's arrival can lead to a long list of things to do — from painting the nursery to buying a cot and reading up on development stages. But, perhaps the most important task is taking care of yourself.
Ensuring that you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals, either through your diet or prenatal vitamins, is one of the best ways to support your own immune system, as well as your developing baby.
And, while it can be hard to cut through the noise of advice that comes with pregnancy, opting for a high-quality prenatal vitamin can give your body a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals at a time when you need them most.
We know pregnancy can be a little overwhelming — but it doesn’t have to be. Kin's Pregnancy Checklist consists of bite-sized checklist items personalised to your pregnancy journey. Approved by fertility specialists and OBYGN approved, you'll feel prepared to tackle each day as it comes and enjoy the process, rather than get lost in it.