Vitamin A in Pregnancy

Vitamin A during Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Megha Gupta (Paediatric Nutritionist)
View more Paediatric Nutritionist Our Panel of Experts

Vitamin A is popularly known as the perfect antioxidant. It is integral to a healthy pregnancy due to its abilities to prevent anaemia, encourage metabolism, and promote facets of foetal development such as cell growth and vision. It is also known as an immune-enhancing nutrient. However, too much of anything is not a good thing, and the same is with Vitamin A, especially when you are pregnant. Here’s all you need to know about this essential vitamin to ensure moderate intake throughout your pregnancy.

What Is Vitamin A & Why Is It Essential?

It is important to get just the right amount of Vitamin A for pregnant women, and this can be a tricky feat. Crucial in ensuring the visual health of your baby as well as his immune function, Vitamin A can be found in two forms. Though the two types have different chemical properties, both offer unique health benefits.

  • Retinol – Meat and fish contain this in high levels, while dairy products and eggs have this in moderation.
  • Beta carotene – This is found in fruits and vegetables. Your body uses this to make Vitamin A.

What Is Vitamin A & Why Is It Essential?

Benefits of Vitamin A for Pregnant Women

Taking Vitamin A while pregnant in the right amounts ensures proper foetal growth and development. The health of bones, teeth, skin, and vision in the foetus is ensured when there are adequate levels of this vitamin present. Risk of Vitamin A deficiency arises in the third trimester ,which is a time when the baby’s growth is at a fast pace and there is increase in blood volume.

How Much Vitamin A Can You Consume During Pregnancy?

It is important to plan your diet in a way that ensures you consume a safe amount of Vitamin A during pregnancy. Consuming too much or too little can have side effects, and may even lead to birth defects. The amount of Vitamin A is measured with a unit known as RAE (retinol activity equivalent). Another unit of measurement is IU (international unit), and 3.3 IU is equal to 1 mcg RAE.

The recommended dose of Vitamin A in pregnancy for women over the age of 19 is up to 770 mcg RAE, or 2565 IU, daily. The upper limit is set at 2800 mcg RAE, or 10,000 IU, per day, through various sources such as supplements, meat, and fortified food items.

What If You Do Not Get Enough Vitamin A?

The lack of Vitamin A in an expecting mother can lead to issues such as anaemia, weak immunity, and vision problems, especially related to night vision. Vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy can lead to a condition called xerophthalmia, where the cornea thickens, and this causes failure to produce tears. Severe deficiency of Vitamin A can also prove fatal in some instances for both mother and child.

Vitamin A-Rich Food Sources

Ideally, a well-balanced diet should ensure that you get your daily quota of Vitamin A, since fruits and vegetables as well as dairy products are rich in this essential nutrient.

Some food items have a high level of Vitamin A, while others carry it in moderation. Here is a list to help you figure out what to include in your daily meals.


Food Products


Vitamin A Content

Baked sweet potato – 1 1,096 mcg (21,909 IU)
Cooked carrot slices – 1/2 cup 665 mcg (13,286 IU)
Pumpkin pie – 1 slice 596 mcg (4,567 IU)
Boiled spinach – 1/2 cup 573 mcg (11,458 IU)
Cooked butternut squash – 1/2 cup 572 mcg (11,434 IU)
Medium-sized raw carrot- 1 509 mcg (10,191 IU)
Boiled kale – 1/2 cup 443 mcg (8,853 IU)
Non-fat milk – 1 cup 338 mcg (1,131 IU)
Oatmeal cooked in water – 1 portion 329 (1,099 IU)
Scrambled egg – 1 large 87 mcg (321 IU)
Cheddar cheese – 1 ounce 75 mcg (284 IU)
Frozen peas – 1/2 cup 84 mcg (1,680 IU)
Cantaloupe cubes – 1 cup 270 mcg (5,411 IU)
Raw spinach – 1 cup 141 mcg (2,813 IU)

What If You Get Too Much of Vitamin A in Pregnancy?

Your body needs only a certain amount of Vitamin A during pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, if you ingest too much of Vitamin A, especially in the first trimester, there is a risk of birth defects in the foetus. In this event, the baby is likely to be born with complications in the head, heart, brain, or spinal cord.

Other side effects of Vitamin A in pregnancy can be chronic toxicity in the mother. Symptoms of excess Vitamin A in pregnancy can range from blurred vision to hair loss, joint pain, liver damage, and chronic headaches.

Is It Safe to Take Vitamin A Supplement When Pregnant?

Ideally, no. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends supplementation for pregnant women only in areas where Vitamin A deficiency is considered a severe public health problem. Most prenatal vitamin supplements contain some amount of Vitamin A, and together with the intake of retinol or beta carotene from your daily food, there is a possibility of Vitamin A levels in your body rising quite high. Consulting your doctor is the best option when it comes to consuming supplements of any kind.

Tips for Consuming Vitamin A in Pregnancy

Fruits, vegetables, fortified cereals, milk, dairy products, and meat are all rich sources of Vitamin A. Orange, yellow, and green vegetables such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, apricots, and oranges are great sources of beta carotene. Chopping, grating, cooking, or juicing makes it easier for the body to absorb beta carotenes.

  • Ensure that any supplements you take do not contain Vitamin A, to prevent excess consumption. Non-pregnancy supplements such as cod liver oil are also best avoided during pregnancy.
  • Steer clear of liver (from beef, chicken, etc.), and dishes where liver is the main ingredient, as it contains high amounts of preformed Vitamin A. Just one serving of liver can contain more than twice the daily limit of Vitamin A recommended during pregnancy!
  • During the first two months of pregnancy, make sure that your daily intake of Vitamin A does not exceed 6000 IUs.

Since this important nutrient can be found in a variety of edible items, getting your required dosage of Vitamin A through food is the best option during pregnancy. Avoiding Vitamin A supplements brings down the chances of overdosing to negligible. Whenever you are concerned about your diet or health during this important phase of life, be sure to consult your doctor at the earliest.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical advice from a qualified professional.

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