Vitamin A and Pregnancy
Although pregnant women have a slightly increased need for vitamin A, pregnancy problems (such as birth defects) could occur if too much is taken. The Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin A for pregnant women is 750 mcg or 770 mcg daily, depending on age. If you already take vitamin A and are considering becoming pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider.
Pregnant women have only a slightly increased need for vitamin A, compared to non-pregnant women. In fact, most pregnant women will have no problem getting enough through their diet. Since many prenatal vitamins contain some vitamin A, there is really no reason for supplementation; in fact, too much vitamin A can potentially be dangerous to a developing fetus.
The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of vitamin A for pregnant women is 750 mcg daily (for women age 14 to 18 years old) or 770 mcg daily (for women 19 years and older). However, most supplement labels use international units (IUs) instead of mcg, and the conversion between the two is not straightforward (it depends on the type of vitamin A used). The easiest way to get a good idea of how much vitamin A your prenatal vitamin contains is to look at the "% Daily Value." All the calculations and conversions have been done for you. Make sure you are getting 100 percent or less.
Both deficiencies and excesses of vitamin A can cause problems, such as severe birth defects. It has been clearly established that taking too much can cause several different birth defects. However, this is only true of preformed types of vitamin A, such as retinol; it is not true of the types of provitamin A, like beta-carotene, that the body uses to make retinol. Taking too much beta-carotene will not increase the level of retinol to toxic levels. This is why beta-carotene is considered safer than retinol for pregnant women.
As long as you limit your vitamin A intake to the recommended amount, it can be considered safe for pregnant women. For added assurance, make sure to use beta-carotene, not retinol or other similar forms. Keep in mind that the RDA for vitamin A is the recommended amount from all sources, including food, not just supplements.
If you are pregnant, it is always a good idea to have a discussion with your healthcare provider before taking any medication or supplement, including vitamin A supplements.