Vitamin A and Pregnancy

The benefits and dangers of retinol during pregnancy

In order for your baby to develop well and for you to experience a healthy and happy pregnancy, you'll need to take in a range of important nutrients, which often means supplementing your diet with a daily pill. But since prenatal vitamins have become so central to pregnancy health, it's more important than ever to pay close attention to just how much of each vitamin, mineral and nutrient you take in. In some cases, you can get too much of a good thing: an overdose of a vitamin A, for instance, can be just as damaging as a deficiency. Find out about pregnancy and vitamin A, including what form of the vitamin to choose and when to be wary of a supplement.


Facts about Retinol during Pregnancy

Vitamin A and pregnancy have a complicated relationship. On one hand, it's vital for your baby's embryonic growth; on the other, high doses of one form of the vitamin can lead to birth defects and liver toxicity. It's important to understand which form is best and where to find it in order to carry on a healthy pregnancy.

There are two basic forms of vitamin A: retinol or retinoids, which are known as preformed vitamin A, and carotenoids. Preformed vitamin A is found in animal products and your body can use them immediately, while carotenoids are found in fruits and vegetables (orange vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, which is probably the most familiar version of carotenoid). While you can consume as many carotenoids as you'd like, it's important not to take in too much retinol -- 3000mcg RAE is the maximum amount of preformed vitamin A you should get from supplements and natural sources combined.

You need to monitor your vitamin A intake through food and supplements, but you also need to watch out for other sources of retinol. Some prescription acne medication and other topical creams used for skin conditions contain drugs related to retinol, and often in surprisingly high doses. If you're using any medication that may have retinol in it, stop using it and speak with your doctor about alternative treatments.

Fish Oil and Pregnancy

Many women opt for fish oil supplements during pregnancy for a surge of brain-building omega-3 fatty acids. EPA and DHA are the two most beneficial fatty acids and together they have an important influence on an unborn baby's visual and cognitive development, as well as your mood and milk production after you give birth. While you can find small amounts of these fatty acids in vegetables and grains, the best source of EPA and DHA is cold water fish. Taking fish oil supplements will help you sidestep threats of mercury and other toxins that can hide in the flesh of fish and seafood.

If you've already been using fish oil, take a close look at the brand and ingredients. High quality fish oil is safe to take throughout pregnancy, so look for a brand that advertises quality standards on the label, offers information about the manufacturing process and clearly states the source. If the oil was taken from the liver of the fish, keep looking: fish liver is a source of preformed vitamin A, and taking a daily concentrated dose of fish liver oil can quickly skyrocket your retinol consumption above the recommended daily amounts.